The Torpedo Pilot

Self doesn’t know about dear blog readers, but the more technical and specific The Last Stand of the Tin Can Sailors gets, the more she loves it because she loves seeing how the technology operates.

Hornfischer is really good at the nuts and bolts. For example, p. 75, where he describes what a torpedo bomber has to do to land its torpedo:

A torpedo attack, uniquely dangerous, required a pilot to fly his Avenger low, slow, and perfectly straight. The mantra, drummed into every torpedo bomber during flight training, was “needle-ball and air-speed.” The challenge was to keep his eyes focused on two instruments, the needle-ball, which indicated the plane’s orientation on the horizontal plane, and the airspeed indicator. If the pilot could keep both instruments within the narrow perimeters needed for a successful drop, the torpedo would enter the water like a free-style swimmer hitting the water from a racing podium: flat, straight, and true . . . The cruelty of the torpedo pilot’s trade was that the greater his proficiency at straight, slow, and exquisitely stable flight, the greater his chances of being blown from the sky. When a Wildcat pilot paused to consider what their buddies at the stick of the Avenger might be called upon to do — bore in on a hostile warship, one eye focused on needle ball and airspeed, the other on the target, alight from stem to stern with guns aimed their way — few were eager to trade places with them.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

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