National Geographic : 1942 Jul
The National Geographic Magazine of these ships took part in this attack on America's Pacific Fleet. While still two or three hundred miles away, these ships fired their heavy guns-torpedo planes and bombers-at Pearl Harbor. They sank or capsized two battleships, the Arizona and Oklahoma, and damaged other capital ships and destroyers. Jap Carriers Escape Unscathed after Striking Pearl Harbor Units of the United States Fleet were at sea at the time, but they never caught the slip pery enemy, which fled with speed. Incidentally, this ability to do the disappear ing act is one of the carrier's greatest assets and a wonderful protection from the enemy. Distances are great in the Pacific and In dian Oceans, and there is so much water to patrol that a smart carrier fleet can attack, re tire, and be hundreds of miles away before the enemy can locate it. Also, the enemy never knows beforehand, unless he has his own air patrols out, where these ships are or when their planes will come roaring over the hori zon. Surprise and initiative are still the keys to victory. Japan now controls Micronesia, a bastion of islands which encircle the heart of her em pire.* Using these as bases, her planes patrol the seas. No surface fleet, no matter how big and powerful, can break through this ring unless it can clear the skies overhead. Picture Admiral Halsey Attacking with 100 Carriers Instead of One! Look what Vice Admiral William F. Halsey's small task force, with only one aircraft carrier, accomplished in the raids on the Gilbert and Marshall Islands January 31, 1942, and later on Wake and Marcus. Lieut. (now Lieut. Comdr.) Edward H. O'Hare and his mates in one day's attack downed 16 out of 18 enemy planes (page 21). Air power in those islands was destroyed for the time and the Japanese bases severely damaged. Imagine, if you can, that instead of only one carrier, Admiral Halsey has a great fleet of a hundred or so floating airfields, some of them fast superships and others converted mer chantmen. These would carry five or six thousand of the fastest, finest dive bomb ers, torpedoplanes, and pursuit ships in the world. Now let Admiral Halsey take this fleet and drive across the Pacific in a vast wave. Of course his carriers, being vulnerable to sub marine torpedo attack, are heavily screened by cruisers and destroyers. These speedy ships weave in and out ahead of the fleet, looking for enemy craft so unfortunate as to be in the way. Suppose Japan's main battle fleet should try to intercept him. As soon as the Admiral's aerial scouts pick up the enemy, he sends off hundreds of fight ers, with a few bombers for diversion. With overwhelming numbers, these harass the enemy continuously until all Jap planes are shot down or exhausted. Then the Admiral sends off swarms of dive bombers and torpedoplanes-chiefly torpedo planes. With their own air power destroyed, the Japanese battleships become easy targets "sitting ducks." The torpedoplanes, attacking relentlessly, soon sink the battleships or make them useless by driving them off. In such a major at tack many planes may be lost, but, carrier men ask, "What difference does it make if you have won the battle?" Now, with enemy air power destroyed, our main battleship fleet can follow up with little risk. Protected by their heavy screen of sub marines, destroyers, cruisers, and an air "um brella" from their own carriers, these float ing forts sweep in and mop up in the old fashioned way what's left of the enemy. At last, with only shore defenses to worry about, the Admiral lands troops from his transports and takes over the islands. Doubt less he will go around the strong points and land where he is not expected, as the Japa nese do. Or, with control of the air and sea in his hands, he might simply cut the long Jap supply lines and then wait for the bases "to die on the vine." Even if the Japanese can obtain oil from the captured Netherlands Indies, it won't do them much good if the American Fleet sinks their tankers. Bell, Peary, and Mitchell Foretold Air Victories of Today As far back as 1908, Alexander Graham Bell, inventor of the telephone, wrote: "The airship will revolutionize warfare . . . it may become a war-exterminating agency and thus end all armed conflicts. The nation that secures control of the air will ultimately con trol the world." THE GEOGRAPHIC'S first article relating to the air was published in June, 1903-"Tetra hedral Principle in Kite Structure," by Alex ander Graham Bell, then President of the National Geographic Society. In fact, THE GEOGRAPHIC has printed 99 * See "Hidden Key to the Pacific," by Willard Price, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE, June, 1942.