the title

 

Two A-3s Tanking

A pair of A-3s conducting in-flight refueling during an extended flight out of Honolulu. Photo: Al Volin, taken from the tanker window of a KC-10.

The Douglas A-3 Skywarrior was first built in 1956 as the Navy's long range nuclear bomber. It was the largest plane on the aircraft carrier, in fact, the USS Forestal ushered in a new class of aircraft carrier designed to handle this large aircraft. Another version of the airplane was built with a pressurized fuselage replacing the bombay. This airplane, with technical operators in the back, was used for carrier based surveillance missions. During the Vietnam War, many of the bombers had an additional fuel tank added to the bombay and were fitted with an in-flight refueling hose and with electronic radar jammers. These planes, the EKA-3B, fueled the fighters and jammed the enemy radars during strike missions. The A-3 operated in the Navy over a period of 35 years and a total of 288 aircraft were built.

The A-3 community was small, with only three or four A-3's on a carrier during most of its operating years. In subsequent decades since its decommissioning from active service, the A-3 Skywarrior Association has helped to keep its community of pilots, naval flight officers, aircrewmen and maintenance men in contact and has held regular reunions at locations where A-3 aircraft may still be viewed.

This website will document the recent reunion held at the Oakland Airport. In addition to dinners and receptions held at the Oakland Airport Hilton Hotel, we had a very thorough tour of the USS Hornet in adjacent Alameda, CA, as well as a tour and dinner at the Oakland Aviation Museum, which holds a recently refurbished A-3 tanker. After a few people shots, this site will feature photos taken in many of the spaces on the USS Hornet, then the photos taken at the Oakland Aviation Museum. Lastly, the website will feature a number of photos of the attendees at the Hilton banquet, which will be interesting to those who were in the A-3 community, but perhaps less interesting to the casual aviation buff.

 

herron roig etc

Alec Schmidt, Ed Norton, BB McGee and Faye, Charlie Gore

 

horton dostal

John Horton, Don Dostal

herron niemyer

Jerry Herron, Bill Roig, Andy Niemyer, Roger Jacobs

 

talunas,  hanson

Bill Talunas, ?, Chuck Hanson

blake, herron

Steve Blake, Jerry Herron

 

title uss hornet

 

uss hornet

 

The USS Hornet (CV-12) is an Essex Class aircraft carrier, decommissioned from active service in 1970. It is designated a National Landmark and is now a museum at Alameda, CA. It saw extensive service in the Pacific during the latter part of World War II. It remained active participant during the Vietnam War. The Hornet recovered the astronauts of both Apollo 11 and Apollo 12 missions when they returned from the moon.

The Essex Class carriers were the first carriers to have angled flight decks, greatly increasing the landing safety should an aircraft fail to catch the arresting wire. It simply added power and flew off the other end to try another approach. The Essex carriers were the smallest ships to handle the A-3 Skywarrior. Many pilots did their day and night A-3 qualifications aboard the Hornet and other Essex Class ships, but soon the A-3s were moved to larger ships.

Our tour of the Hornet was excellent, with the Docents retired Navy people who knew the ship and its operations well. We were impressed by the great number of volunteers who were busy restoring aircraft, maintaining the ship, and keeping the spaces clean and waxed as they were when it was operational.

attack count

In the hangar bay is a record of the planes and ships destroyed by the Hornet air wing.

 

TBM Avenger

Here is a TBM Avenger Torpedo Bomber. This was the type of plane that George H.W. Bush was shot down in while on a torpedo run in WWII.

 

Apollo 11 capsul.

The Apollo 11 Capsule. There was great concern about contamination by foreign cellular matter, so the capsule was lowered to the hangar bay and the crew walked a short distance to the quarantine trailer.

 

Apollo quarantine trailer.

The quarantine trailer where the crew had physicals and was assessed for possible biological contamination.

 

Ready Room

Here is a typical squadron ready room. Flights were planned and briefed here, training took place, and the officers would do much of their paperwork in this room. Each officer had an assigned chair and kept his folders in the drawer under his seat. At night, the movie was shown here. One could always find some well aged coffee in a pot kept in one of the corners. Cream was less reliably available, so most of us learned to drink coffee black.

 

Passageway

A typical passageway below decks. Heavy bulkheads (doors) separate the compartments and can seal them water-tight during a battle.

Officer bunkroom

A two man bunk room such as this would be reserved for Lieutenants, (O-3) and above. Even they would use the shower down the hall.

 

 Galley

An enlisted galley, where sailors would slide their trays along and get their chow. Regardless of their training, junior enlisted men in the squadron were sent to temporary duty on the ship, often doing menial work, such as peeling potatoes in the galley. It was a six month purgatory, which eventually resulted in their working on airplanes or doing the other duties for which they were trained. On their second cruise, they would be given leadership roles and would be training the incoming sailors on the technical aspects of their rating.

 

Spam

The carrier was not a shopper's paradise, but one could at least relax in the Ge-dunk for the fleeting bit of free time that was available.

 

Trays

The trays anticipated the ample appetite that accompanied those who worked a 14 hour day.

 

Enlisted mess

Mealtime was a place to relax and talk with friends. Many of the jobs took place in areas too noisy for easy conversation. The mess hall was quiet and comfortable.

 

XO Office

The Executive Officer of the ship handled many of the people issues and programs. He worked closely with the Master and Senior Chief Petty Officers who more directly supervised most of the men onboard.

Knots

The Navy loves its traditions. Line handling and it's associated knots go back to the days of sailing ships. Even on modern nuclear carriers, one can see this tradition on display.

 

Enlisted Bunkroom

Enlisted bunk room. One needed to be dead tired to sleep well here.

locker

This is the extent of the locker space for one person.

 

Marine armory

Every carrier has a Marine Detachment assigned for security. Here is the Marine armory.

 

Operating Room

This is one of several operating rooms in the medical department. The carrier handles medical emergencies not only for the carrier, but for other ships in the Task Force. Injured personnel from nearby military bases are often flown to the carrier for immediate attention.

 

Medical ward

Here are the bunks in the medical ward. The carrier must anticipate increased needs of battle.

 

Catapult

This hydraulic piston drives the catapult, which can launch a 70,000 pound A-3 from zero to 150 mph in 211 feet. With tremendous force, the piston separates the cable pulleys, and the cable is what pulls the catapult hook, accelerating the aircraft.

 

An F-8 is catapulted off of the bow of the USS Hancock, an Essex Class aircraft carrier like the USS Hornet.

 

A-3 trap Hancock

Several of us at the reunion did our first day and night carrier qualifications aboard the USS Hancock. The Essex Class carriers were small for such a large plane and the A-3 was soon moved to the larger Forestal Class and Enterprise Class ships. One can see the Landing Signal Officer in the background, who gives verbal corrections for small deviations of line-up and glideslope to the approaching airplane.

 

Flight Ops

The Air Boss directs flight operations in the island above the flight deck. All visual operations within five miles of the carrier come under his purview. He also directs the handling of aircraft on the flight deck. With aircraft touching down at 40 second intervals, it is essential that both the flight procedures and the deck handling procedures are conducted with utmost professionalism.

 

Quartermaster

The ship is steered and power commanded from the control room which is located right behind the Captain's bridge. The quartermaster plays no role in choosing the course but expertly obeys commands from the bridge to place the carrier on commanded headings and power settings

 

Captain's bridge

The Captain has the best seat in the house, with a good view of the flight deck and the ships in the Task Force. His responsibility extends well beyond guiding the ship, as all the phases of ship operation come under his command. Other officer qualify as Officer of the Deck and take turns standing watch on the bridge. They may conduct the operation of the ship during times that the Captain is occupied with other duties.

 

I would like to express my appreciation for our excellent tour of the USS Hornet. The volunteers were enthusiastic and knowledgable. Many people give of their time to keep the ship and its display aircraft clean and maintained. I would strongly encourage those visiting the Bay Area to take advantage of this superb museum.

On the next page are photos of the Oakland Airport Aviation Museum and pictures of attendees at the A-3 reunion.