“Nuclear Navy” *
The following is my recollection of the limited role I had in the development and employment of the nuclear weapon delivery capability of the Navy. It all started with my first squadron, VA-I5, based out of NAS Jacksonville and NAS Cecil Field in Jacksonville, Florida (June 1950 to October 1954). For the first two-and-a-half years with the squadron, we had no nuclear delivery capability or mission, and it wasn't until late 1952 that I recall anything of the Navy's light attack involvement. Until then, it was strictly the heavy attack community, first with the P2V and AJ-l, and later the A3D.
In January 1953, one other pilot and I went TAD to the Headquarters Field Command of the Armed Forces Special Weapons Project at Sandia Base in Albuquerque, New Mexico, for the two-week Delivery Course DD-30. That course was an eye-opener and covered the full spectrum of weapons development, testing' effects and the structural and operational details of the then two types of weapons, the "Gun" and "Implosion" configurations. We got to see actual weapons and cut-aways of the business end, and we gained a very good understanding of basic weapon design and function. I don't remember a lot of the fine detail, but as the course title denotes, there was some emphasis on delivery. The early tactics were primarily oriented to the Air Force and heavy attack type operations with high altitude delivery profiles. There was little available for light attack squadron employment.
The massive size of the early weapons, such as the Fat Man, resulted in the AJ -1 and the A3D being developed as heavy attack birds to accommodate the girth and weight of that monster. The development of smaller weapons brought the delivery capability to the AD light attack squadrons. The Mark 8 was a guntype weapon that looked like a small torpedo with a massive metal body, weighing 3,000plus pounds. The Mark 7 was an implosion weapon, about two-and-a-half feet in diameter, 15 feet long and weighing 1,600 pounds-much smaller than the Fat Man.
There was no standardized training for penetration or delivery tactics. I believe Operational Test and Evaluation Force (OPTEVFOR) or Operational Development Force (OPDEVFOR) published a couple of manuals on "special weapons" delivery that were the only references available at the squadron level. After my last deployment with VA-I5 in USS Franklin D. Roosevelt (CVA-42) from June to November 1953, I undertook and concentrated on writing the squadron's special weapon doctrine and formalizing a flight training syllabus as our nuclear role became more important. At that time, we had no formal special weapons doctrine and the delivery training program was ill-defined at best. These proved to be some of the first squadron-level doctrines and formal training programs for the special weapons role, and the squadron was commended for them during its annual inspection a few months after I departed.
The concept of deep penetration into Eastern Bloc countries or Soviet territory for our slow-moving birds meant that a low-level flight profile was essential to avoid radar detection, tracking and interception until close to the target, at which point we climbed to about 20,000 feet for a steep (70 degree) dive-bombing run. The climb to altitude, the delivery with release around 10,000 feet and the turn and dive back to the deck were the most vulnerable parts of the flight. Escaping the blast and radiation envelopes was essential to our survival. To introduce greater realism to the training, we established maximum altitudes of 50 feet over water, 100 feet over the flat piney woods and 400 feet for clearing ridges. Flight planning took on a far more detailed and exacting aspect than we had been used to. The Spad [AD] was not equipped with sophisticated nav aids, and the APS-19 radar could only be used very sparingly to identify key radar targets. At those low altitudes, our field of vision was extremely limited and navigational checkpoints were difficult to find. Learning to select and identify significant navigational check points was most difficult at 100 feet or lower; it took time and required a great deal of practice. When you popped up to 1,000 feet to enter the landing pattern, after four hours dusting the tops of the trees, the contrast was spectacular-you could see the world!
We started with very short flights of one hour, and increased as proficiency grew to the eight-hour "butt busters." We emphasized avoidance of built-up areas, both for realism and to reduce harassment of the populace. More than once we observed people dashing from some isolated farmhouse that wasn't on the map and which you couldn't see in time to avoid buzzing. Farmhouses and fishermen in boats weren't the only hazards. Occasionally there would be the unusually tall pine tree or the ever-present buzzards over the piney woods of the South. We never lost a bird to a buzzard, but some buzzards were lost to our birds, leaving some holes in the leading edges of the wings. Our metal smiths weren't thrilled with those repair jobs since the buzzards left smelly deposits that were difficult to completely clean.
For both safety and operational effectiveness we used a two-plane section from our squadron during training, with one "pathfinder" having primary navigational responsibility. During our shipboard deployments, one of the night attack AD-4Ns from the VC-33 detachment took over the role of pathfinder. This occasionally led to some interesting flights during those early days when our buddies were not as well trained and conscientious as we were.
Just before I left VA-I5 in October 1954, we started experimenting with the "Idiot Loop" delivery maneuver as an alternative to the high-altitude steep dive. With this method, we could avoid the exposure of the slow-speed climb in close proximity to a target area (our point of greatest vulnerability), but many of us were more than a bit skeptical. The loft was a new concept, and we didn't even have the lofting equipment necessary to release the weapon at the appropriate point in the maneuver. If we could master the maneuver, the accuracy should have been comparable to what we could achieve with a high altitude release on a dive-bombing run. Given the assumption that we could get the release down later, our main concern at that point was our ability to complete the maneuver, get back on the deck and safely avoid the blast and radiation effects. There were a lot of unknowns at that time, and few of us had knowledge enough to feel confident in the ability of the AD to survive the delivery of a live weapon.
Being pre-SlOP (Single Integrated Operation Plan), we did not have targets assigned to the squadron during our deployments, and the nuclear weapon delivery was just another mission we had with rather limited details for potential combat implementation. In fact, we did not even have the blue "shape" to simulate the Mark 7 weapon until some time later in 1954. Further, until I left the squadron, I do not recall having any live weapons available at Cecil Field or aboard Roosevelt for us to conduct live loading drills. Thus, the first year or two with the special weapon-delivery mission assignment gave us little in-depth practice for our participation in that role.
Obstacles Galore for an AD-4
One of the most memorable experiences of my Navy career came during our 1953 cruise when we were conducting joint exercises with the Turkish armed forces. On the morning of 5 October I was a standby for a simulated nuclear strike on the airfield at Afyon Karahisar, Turkey. Lieutenant Frank Bacon, the pilot scheduled for the flight, downed his plane on the flight deck, and I was launched as the spare at 0600 on what started off as a beautiful, sunny day. I joined up with my VC-33 pathfinder and we proceeded on course. I don't remember why, but we had not planned a low-level penetration. We crossed the coast and proceeded inland at 3,000 to 5,000 feet.
All went well for the first two hours. In preparation for the climb to altitude, about 45 miles from the target, I added a little power to pass my buddy and patted my head, indicating that I was pulling away to start my climb. He was to proceed to the post strike rendezvous point to wait for me after my call, "Bomb away!" Adding power for the climb and slowing to 160 knots as the nose came up started well, but then the engine popped twice, and before I could reduce power very far, it backfired violently and became eerily silent. My brief efforts to restart were in vain, and I quickly realized that the accessory drive shaft had probably sheared. I'd been the power plants officer for some months and we had experienced several cases where the shaft had twisted after a series of backfires. I knew of only one prior incidence of the shaft shearing, but the evidence was clear. I lost the generator, magnetos, tachometer, fuel and hydraulic pumps, but the prop was still windmilling. That had to be the answer, and I was now a glider pilot!
This was an emergency and justified my breaking radio silence. The radio was dead, however, and still did not work when I switched to emergency. The next best thing was to get the pathfinder's attention visually. I had already pushed the nose over to keep up airspeed and now dove toward him. I passed about 75 yards astern on a 45 degree angle, rocking my wings to get his attention, all to no avail!
Next order of business: do I bail out of this bird or take it in wheels up? We had just crossed an area that looked like a miniature Grand Canyon, but fortunately we were now over a flat plateau. Still about 5,000 feet above ground level, I decided to continue toward what looked like a fairly clear area so I could take it in. It still looked good at 3,000 feet, and I was committed to a wheels-up landing. Since I had safely landed planes without incident so far in my short career and had never used a chute, it seemed best to stick with my experience and avoid the unknown.
The landing was easier than I had expected, and as soon as the plane stopped, I unstrapped and probably would have taken the Navy's record for the 50-yard dash with parachute attached. With bone-dry soil, the dust cloud the plane kicked up was tremendous and took a few minutes to begin to settle. As I stood there watching and getting the lay of the land, I saw my first sign of life as a camel caravan approached from the distance. I had no camera to get the shot of a lifetime, however; I didn’t think I’d need to take it since I was only the standby for the flight!
There was no fire, and I went back to the plane, deposited the chute in the seat and started taking an inventory of what I had. I began deciding on my next step while securing the plane. I had to get word back to the ship, and wondered what kind of reception I would receive from the local populace and the camel caravan. I didn’t have to wait long to find out; although we couldn’t converse by conventional means, they were quite adept with sign language and it was apparent that they were friendly and interested in helping me. Soon there were about 20 or 30 gathered in a circle around me and the plane. The men sat in the circle closest to me while the women and children stood quietly and respectfully well back from the men.
About four hours later, the mayor of Sandikli arrived with two other civilians, one of whom could speak a little English. I was able to get the message across that I needed to get somewhere where I could contact the ship. I left the plane with several armed soldiers who had arrived earlier and proceeded to the mayor's home, where his wife prepared lunch with a special dish just for me--noodles with hashish oil. From what I could gather from information relayed by the mayor over the phone, the ship did not know what had happened and had sent out an air search to find me. After trying to relay some information to the Turkish police and military at Afyon, we went for a wild jeep ride to the police station. There I had the chance to speak briefly by phone with our CAG, who had led the search group and landed at the field at Afyon. It seems that my pathfinder had been unable to raise me on the radio after the rendezvous time had passed, then proceeded back to the ship, trying to call me several times en route. The first time the ship knew of the problem was when he checked in alone with no information about me. He apparently thought that I had missed the rendezvous and had proceeded back to the ship alone. The search had not turned up any sign of the plane and CAG landed to see if he could get any info from the local authorities. Before he had to return to Roosevelt I was able to give him a rundown on what happened and what I needed to tow the plane to Afyon, swing a new engine and repair the structural damage so that I could get it ready to fly back to the ship. I also asked him to have the squadron send me some clothes, money and especially my camera. I'd already missed the photo of the year of that camel caravan approaching the crippled plane and hoped to preserve at least some of the details of my experience.
So much for a standby flight, and it was only just beginning! The next morning Lieutenant Bill Dozier and Lieutenant Junior Grade Hank Bailey flew in to Afyon, bringing with them ADC Moody Harrell and AMC Robert Kress, our two key maintenance chiefs. For our immediate needs they brought a tow bar, hoisting sling and a couple of tool boxes. Off we went in several jeeps with a few Turkish military personnel to the plane to get a final estimate of what we would need. We returned to Afyon that evening. The two chiefs stayed with me, and the next day we assembled our salvage team, returned to the plane and started the long trek 60 miles to Afyon airfield.
The commander of the airfield at Afyon, Captain Hakki Cebesoy, had taken his flight training in England during the 1940s. He spoke English very well and was constantly there to help in any way, so language was no longer a barrier to communication. The cranes proved capable of lifting the plane so that we could lower and lock the landing gear. The big GMC truck served as the mule to tow the plane with me manning the brakes and able to stay in charge as we crossed unknown terrain. The first leg of the journey across 10 to 12 miles of open ground followed a rural road that, at times, was no more than a faint trail. As we approached a small river, the narrow dirt road led to a single lane stone bridge, far too narrow for the plane to pass. Our new challenge, then, was to ford the river, which fortunately was not too deep and had a good solid stone bottom. That completed, we ground on toward our major obstacle: crossing a 6,000-foot mountain pass on a narrow, two-lane, unpaved road that in spots was carved out of the steep face of the mountainside. As we ascended toward the pass, we snaked along the road with the right wing butt nearly scraping the rock face of the mountain, and the left wheel precariously close to the edge of a precipitous drop. We were all worn out after a long day and our better judgment dictated that we call it quits for the night and reevaluate the situation with clearer minds in the daylight.
After an uneasy night in a rather primitive country inn (lit by candle light and with no indoor plumbing) we were able to get through the tight squeeze. Our route also called for the use of a bulldozer to move a couple of stone walls out of the way and clear a wider roadway through several hundred feet of a narrow path with raised earth berms on each side. Finally, at noon on Saturday, three-and-a-half days after the trek began, we arrived at the airfield. We were tired but elated that we had arrived without any new damage to the plane other than some dents and scratches where the wing butts had scrapped the side of the mountain or stone walls. Now came the waiting period, which passed quickly thanks to the relaxing baths and an interesting experience literally fishing with dynamite!
On 16 October the engine arrived along with two first class petty officers, Buckmaster and Shehee, to help with the engine change and metal work. The work began in earnest. We swung the old engine on one of the cranes and swapped mags, generator, hydraulic pump and other parts from it to the new engine on its flyaway shipping stand. I learned a good bit about engine changes over the next few days. While three of us worked on changing the engine, Kress and Shehee went over the airframe with a fine tooth comb, repairing what damage they could find and had the material and tools for and noting other problems for later attention. When we finally were able to pull the accessory drive shaft, I won a bet with Harrell. He had never seen one shear and doubted my analysis of what caused the failure. Sure enough, it was sheared off just aft of the splined section that mated with the crankshaft. The Navy later had Pratt and Whitney redesign the shaft as I suggested in my report on the failure.
Departure from Afyon on the 20th came with the heartiest thanks to Captain Cebesoy and the others for all their help during the trying two weeks. The first leg of the trip was a short hop to the main Turkish airfield at Eskisehir to refuel and pick up a leader back to civilization. Afyon was an inactive field with no avgas and I had just enough fuel to get to Eskisehir. Also, since we had just installed UHF radios in all the aircraft on Roosevelt prior to deployment, and all land stations in Turkey and most of the Mediterranean area were still on VHF, I needed to fly wing on another plane with radio communications to the ground. The men, along with the old engine and equipment, were driven to Eskisehir where we met a Navy R4D-8 from FASRON 77 in Naples. Since there were no radio communications between the planes, I had our crew in the back of the R4D keeping visual contact with me during the hour-and-a-half trip to Izmir. If I had any trouble, we set up signals to let them know what the story was so they could relay it to my escort's crew. Fortunately, the flight was almost uneventful. Almost, but not quite! A nasty oil cooler leak and overheated engine led to further groundwork before continuing my journey.
Since I didn't have directions from the ship or the squadron as to what they wanted me to do, I decided that I'd fly the plane to Naples and have FASRON 77 fix it up so that I'd feel safe landing back on Roosevelt. On the 22nd, I found an Air Force C-47 heading to Athens, only an hour-and-a-half away. They agreed to let me fly on their wing for the trip, but wouldn't accept the two men as passengers since they didn't have orders. Never let it be said that I could be stopped by such a minor detail. I asked them for a sheet of paper and wrote a set of orders in longhand as their officer-in-charge. Fortunately they didn't ask to see my orders, and off we charged to Athens.
Once in Athens, it turned out that the weather to Naples was pretty bad, and there was no way that I was going to try to fly wing on an R4D in IFR conditions with no radio. The weather finally cleared on the 26th and I found a friendly wing to fly on for the uneventful flight to Naples. I then turned my trusty steed over to FASRON 77 for repairs. While they were ordering the parts, on the 28th I dashed back to Athens and met the ship to get some clothes and money. That commodity had become rather scarce after three weeks on the road. After three good meals, a hot Navy shower and a good night's sleep in my own sack, I left for Naples the next day to pick up my trusty Spad. On the 30th I flew back to Athens, then on to lraklion, Crete, and when the ship left Suda Bay on 3 November, I finally flew the jewel back aboard with no further incidents. Almost a month after departing for a five-hour special weapons hop, I finally landed back on Roosevelt, an experience I've never forgotten!
After leaving VA-I5 in October 1954, it wasn't until July 1961, when I reported to the postgraduate school in Monterey, California, that my career path returned to the nuclear realm. The course, Nuclear Engineering (Effects), led to an M.S. degree in physics, with specific emphasis in the radiation effects of nuclear weapons. As part of the curriculum, I returned to Albuquerque for a month-long course in June 1962 given by the Defense Atomic Support Agency (DASA), Headquarters Field Command at Sandia Base. The content was greatly expanded and more comprehensive than the two-week version I remembered from 1953. We had achieved a far greater degree of sophistication in weapon technology and delivery systems, and extensive atmospheric and underground testing had expanded our knowledge level of weapon effects exponentially. This course was my first direct exposure to the SIOP and the Navy's role in it. By the end of the month, we were well versed in weapon technology, delivery systems available, potential effects we could expect and the basics of command and control. The bulk of our studies at the postgraduate school, however, did not relate even indirectly to weapon employment.
My assignment after postgraduate school was to DASA to be resident at Albuquerque and report to CO, NAVADMUNlT, Sandia Base. This was the roundabout way the Navy had to assign me to the Weapons Effects and Tests (WET) division of the DASA Headquarters Field Command. Nuclear testing was still treated gingerly at that time. The technical basis of my master's degree in physics would be put to use in planning, instrumentation and analysis of nuclear weapon tests. WET, a joint command, was charged with planning and conducting both atmospheric tests at Johnston Atoll in the Pacific, about 750 miles west southwest of Hawaii, and underground testing at the Nevada Test Site north of Las Vegas. My assignment from June 1963 through February 1965 dealt primarily with Spin Drift, a planned series of tests of small sub-kiloton weapons, ranging from shallow underwater to low atmospheric detonations.
This was a challenging new field of operations for me, coordinating with headquarters DASA in Washington and a number of government laboratories, civilian contractors and companies regarding various aspects of test design, instrumentation and analysis. The nuclear device was small, compact and had applications by all three services, primarily in a tactical role as opposed to strategic. Just a few months short of the scheduled start of the Spin Drift and several other high altitude atmospheric tests, the president approved the Atmospheric Test Ban Treaty, and though planning continued, implementation was put on hold and the pace slowed substantially. Since Spin Drift comprised low yield weapons, an alternative phase of planning for high explosive (HE) detonation in the order of 20 tons kept us quite busy. The high yield atmospheric tests were documented more extensively, but basically mothballed. I left during the planning for the alternative HE tests, but believe these were never carried out.
I had not been involved in the underground test planning, but saw a great deal of stress subsequently placed on expanding both the extensiveness and complexity of design and instrumentation for the work in Nevada to provide some of the data that had been planned for the high-altitude tests. Of course there were many specific high-altitude tests, such as actual ballistic missile intercepts with live defensive weapons, that could not be duplicated. The continuation of the atmospheric test ban left the underground testing in Nevada as the only source for live testing and effects measurement. By the time I left WET in late February 1965, the staff for the atmospheric testing side of the house had begun its downsizing, and I departed, not having been involved in the execution of any of the tests I had participated in the planning of. This was a big disappointment, and left me without the satisfaction of seeing the successful culmination of a year-and-a-half's work.
I reported to Carrier Division Three on board USS Ranger (CVA-61) in early March 1965 for the final month-and-a-half of the deployment in the South China Sea. While the primary thrust during my 16-month tour with the staff was the conduct of conventional weapon strike and interdiction operations in North and, to a lesser extent, South Vietnam (performing as weapons and strike warfare officer), I now saw how the Navy's role in the SIOP had developed extensively during my absence from the attack squadron realm. This was brought out graphically during the month-and-a-half I spent at the Nuclear Weapons Training Center at NAS North Island. This was far more specific and concentrated on how the Navy's air wings integrated in the SIOP role. We studied the actual weapons carried, as well as the operational planning, training, command and control.
By mid-October 1965, we were on the way to Norfolk, Virginia, to embark in USS Enterprise (CVAN-65), finished off Air Wing Nine's final pre-deployment exercises and headed around the Cape of Good Hope on our way to Southeast Asia. The transit was high speed, but gave us the chance to conduct a number offloading drills with the nukes and for the pilots to once more go over strike planning for their assigned targets. After a brief port call at Subic Bay, we were at sea off South Vietnam for our first tour on the line. Admiral Henry L. "Hank" Miller released the message: "The first nuclear-powered Task Group in history, TG 77.7 engaged the enemy at 0720 on 2 December 1965 in South Vietnam.” Enterprise and USS Bainbridge (DLGN-25) were the nukes and USS Barry (DD-933) and USS Samuel B. Roberts (DD-823) rounded out the escorts in the task group.
While on Yankee Station, there was little thought or effort given to the air wing's nuclear role. We were all consumed with the nasty conventional role in which we were deeply involved. There were isolated loading drills and nuclear strike planning sessions during transit periods off the line, but for the most part, our nuclear role was low in priority. There is little I can say other than our capability and mission were still there, to be called on if the world situation were to deteriorate sufficiently to bring it to the fore. We were prepared!
I left Carrier Division Three, my last operational contact with nukes, in mid-July 1966 and reported to VAW-13 at Alameda three days later as XO and later CO of a squadron I had helped form six years earlier.
After attending the National War College at Fort McNair in Washington, DC, I joined WSEG for what turned out to be my last tour of duty in the Navy. We in the joint staff at WSEG worked closely with the civilian scientist-run Institute for Defense Analysis (IDA), the Director of Defense Research & Evaluation (DDR&E), various defense department laboratories and various civilian contractors on a wide variety of weapon related studies and evaluations for all the services. My principal assignment during this period was development of a computer simulation program, SIMEX, for nuclear weapon employment. Eventually it encompassed modeling of virtually all phases of a strategic employment of offensive and defensive weapons and detection systems. As I recall, it dealt primarily with both land and submarine launched intercontinental ballistic missiles with various MIRV configurations and yields selectable. The rudimentary anti-ballistic missile (ABM) systems also could be programmed. The blast and radiation effects were computed and designed to predict the effects on survivability of other warheads in the vicinity of a blast. The effects on ground targets were also programmed.
For the early 1970s, this was a massive and complex program and took many hours to run on the IBM computers in the basement computer room of the Pentagon. We would take the tape reels in late in the day to run on the computer overnight. The next day, we would have a foot-high stack of printout ready to analyze. The monster proved so cumbersome that we ended up producing a more compact, limited version called SIMETTE. I left WSEG and the project just as we had the final documentation completed, unfortunately, and since I had no need to know after retirement, I've often wondered if the model ever proved to be of value in strategic planning for weapon employment.
Captain Charles R. MacDowell, USN, was born 15 June 1928 in Bridgeport, Connecticut, the son of Robert S. MacDowell and Mabel Kraft MacDowell. He traveled extensively during his distinguished and decorated career, and he retired following 27 years of service. He attended the National War College where his main interest was Middle Eastern Affairs. He earned his graduate degree in Engineering from Stanford University, and later his masters degree in Nuclear Physics from the Naval Post Graduate School. Upon his retirement, he and his family moved to the Orange Park area and he continued to work in a variety of diverse fields (including senior-vice president of Fidelity Mortgage Co. for 18 years) until his death on 6 November 2002. He was a member .of the Flying Midshipmen Association. MacDowell was a loving husband to the former Jeanne McCain (married 18 August 1955), father of four daughters (Kathleen Davis, Linda Cole, Lisa Fuller and Laura MacDowell), and had six grandchildren and one great-grandson.
Captain Raymond E. Demming, USNR (Ret.), was born in Sherman, New York in 1928, attended high school in Buffalo, and entered the Navy through the Holloway Flying Midshipman Program in June 1946. He pursued engineering studies at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Troy, New York, until ordered to Pensacola in June 1948 for flight training. He was designated a Naval Aviator on 8 May 1950, and was commissioned 14 July 1950. He was ordered to VA-I5 at NAS Jacksonville, which deployed to the Mediterranean in USS Coral Sea (CVB-43) in 1951 and in USS Wasp (CV-18) in 1952.
Other deployments were made to the Caribbean in USS Oriskany (CVA-34), Wasp and USS Lake Champlain (CVA - 38). Following three years sea duty he was ordered to Pensacola as an instructor at NAAS Saufley Field. After release from active duty in 1954 he returned to Rensselaer and graduated June 1956 with an Aeronautical Engineering degree. He affiliated with reserve squadrons flying Corsairs out of NAS Floyd Bennett, and on the West Coast he flew Panthers and Cougars out of NAS Los Alamitos. He later returned to the East Coast, serving in various VF and VA squadrons and as CO of VA-912 (flying A4D Skyhawks). Other billets included CO VTU-9191 and CO NAS Brunswick Reserve Unit 4291. In civilian life he was a flight test engineer with North American Aviation, Missile Systems Division, Downey, California; Avco Missile Systems, Wilming.ton, Massachusetts; and General Electric Aircraft Engines, Lynn, Massachusetts. He is a member of the Naval Aviation Museum Foundation, The USS Constitution Museum Foundation, ANA and the Flying Midshipmen Association. Demming is married to Lois Boleyn, a former Navy nurse, and they have three children: Susan Irvin, Commander David Demming, USN (Ret.) and Deborah Derbyshire.
After World War II, the U.S. armed forces faced a massive reduction in manpower and equipment which exacerbated growing conflict over resources between the newly formed U.S.A.F. and the U.S. Navy. The Air Force promoted an emphasis on heavy bombers which were unsuitable for use in the Navy and which could carry the massive atomic weaponry of the time (thus giving the Air Force a near monopoly on special weapons). The Navy continued promotion of the striking power of the carrier and, in order to better compete with the U.S.A.F., made a concerted effort in the 1950s and ‘60s to develop its own substantial nuclear capability.
Captain MacDowell’s article primarily details his experiences in the early 1950s, when the Navy’s nuclear role was relatively slight and geared toward the use of larger aircraft such as the AJ-1. By the 1960s, however, a wide variety of aircraft including the F-4 (above) and A-4 (below) had also gained the capacity to deliver nuclear weapons.
In the early ‘60s, as MacDonnell notes, the Navy had become far more integrated into SIOP, and newer aircraft such as the A-5 (left) were intended to take the lead in Naval Nuclear strikes. By mid-decade. However, development of submarine-launched ballistic missiles and the onset of the Vietnam War returned the focus of Naval Aviation to the realm of conventional warfare.
* Foundations, Fall 2009; © 2009.