WWII aircraft carrier bows and friendly fire

WWII aircraft carrier bows had a couple of antiaircraft gun emplacements, and the flight deck extended above them. I was told that there was an aircraft carrier that sailed through a hurricane and its flight deck had been peeled back like the top of a sardine tin by the force of the waves.

First question: Did this really happen, and to what ship?

I was told that after that incident, aircraft carriers got “hurricane bows” that closed off the open deck in front and eliminated the forward gun emplacements. Since the flight deck was joined to the bows, hurricane-spawned waves could no longer peel it back.

Second question: When was this change made, and how many of the ships were so modified?

I was told that panicky gunners in the forward gun emplacements that existed before the ships had “hurricane bows” would sometimes shoot down their own aircraft that were launching from the carrier.

Third question: Is this true?

I believe the peeled up flight deck did happen, as I recall reading about it somewhere. IIRC, it was a British carrier, most of which had steel flight decks. At the time, American carriers had wooden plank decks, and would have broken apart rather than bent.

Also, I recall it had steerage problems for the remainder of its journey as the deck acted as a huge sail.

This is fairly distant memory of mine, and I’m quite sure I don’t have the book in my library. I’m afraid I can’t provide a cite, but I will look for one.

Here is a pic of hurrican damage to a carrier deck. However, I don’t believe this is the case you’re referring to.

Here’s more typhoon damage. Gee, this is more common than I thought.

Boyo Jim: I dimly remember seeing a photo or some footage of a peeled-back deck. The pic you linked to isn’t what I “remember”.

I found this site on aircraft carriers, which list MANY instances of storm damage, however not in enough detail to track this down.

I have not yet found a specific listing for the dates when hurricane decks were installed, but browsing through the photos at http://www.navsource.org/ I note that all the photos taken in 1952 or earlier of Essex and Midway carriers have open bows. There are a few carriers with open bows and a few carriers with hurricane bows in 1955, and by 1957, all the ships I’ve seen, so far, had hurricane bows.

The Forrestal was the first carrier designed after WWII (laid down 1952, commissioned, 1955) and she was built with hurricane bows.

As to bow gunners shooting down their own planes being launched, I could not say that it never could have happened, but it hardly seems likely. In order to have that happen, you would need to be attempting to launch planes during an attack (unlikely as the carrier needs to be able to make violent turns to avoid bombs and torpedoes, so you’d want your radar-warned planes off the deck before the enemy arrived). Then you’d have to have a gunner who was good enough to lock onto a target that suddenly appeared moving away from his position, but was so dumb that he thought the distinctively colored USN/USMC plane that was moving away from him only 10 feet over his head with the landing gear extended (a sight he witnessed multiple times a day), was, somehow, hostile.

I recall reading about a peeled back bow in a novel about WWII. IIRC it was near the begining of HMS Ulysses by Alstair McLean. I don’t have a copy any more, so I can’t check.

I have found a couple of casual references to a carrier in the Atlantic that had its deck “rolled up” in a storm, while being used as a troop transport bringing guys home from Europe. The references are generally from people who report it third hand.

During that period the second Wasp (CV18) did suffer storm damage, but of the typical “collapsed” variety of other carriers.

This site contains a short description of the 18 Dec 1944 typhoon that damaged Adm. Halsey’s task force. Three destroyers were sunk and 5 carriers damaged. Three carriers had serious fires when planes broke their lashings and spilled fuel. There is no specific mention of flight deck damage. The carriers are not identified by name but the list of ships involved doesn’t include any of the well known WWII carriers.

The typhoon of 3 June 1945 is described. Two escort carriers, which I believe had steel decks, USS Windham Bay (CVE-92) and USS Salamaua (CVE-96) lost part of their flight decks.

I vaguely remember seeing a peeled back deck in a newsreel but I’m not sure it was a carrier and it might even have been post WWII.

Think I got it…from a site describing a guest speakers talk.

‘Hear how the hurricane destroyed the HORNET’s flight deck and how this led the Navy to create the first hurricane bow - now a structural part of every aircraft carrier.’

My first linked pic above is the Hornet. And though that damage may well have been what led to the design changes, I don’t think it’s the one that Johnny was referring to. The front third or so of the deck was bent up at nearly a right angle.

ChalkPit, do you have a link to that site?

We’ve seen photos of four separate Essex class carriers with storm-damaged bows in this thread, but the Hornet was damaged during WWII and I’ve found a Hornet photo from 1954 (after an update) showing the open bow (and an increase from one to two quad mounts) while a later photo from '56 or '57 shows the hurricane deck. (This change would have occurred after the building of the Forrestal.)

I’m just postin what this quote said, which seems quite specific, and seems to answer the OP in part. If the qoute I found is correct, then that must apply only to US carriers.

I have done some checking on Royal Navy fleet carriers, particularly the Illustrious class, which seem to have been built with enclosed bows, in the late 1930’s, pre-war. All the pictures I have seen of this class, show what appear to be ‘hurricane bows’.

I’m sure the carrier must have been British in order for the deck to be peeled back (armoured decks - as mentioned above), but maybe the damage was caused between the wars ? ? ?

The Japanese had carriers with ‘hurricane bows’ too, in WWII, the Taiho being the only one I can name.

The storm which damaged the Hornet was in June 1945, and wrecked the front 25 feet of the deck.

The quote came from a USS Hornet Special Events website. I didnt post a link to it, as it didnt actually have much info on the Hornet itself, just a list of ‘other stuff’.

I read about this in a not very good WW2 novel but it happened to an escort carrier.

Boyo Jim, David Simmons, Barks’ dog food and I seem to remember seeing or reading about a deck peeled back like a tin can, but nothing specific. (The damage was different from that pictured on the Hornet.) Maybe we’re all hallucinating? :wink:

The phrase appears in several accounts.

1942 Atlantic storm: (The Suwannee was an escort carrier.)
On the way back, we ran into a terrific storm with a 59-knot gale. Tremendous waves peeled back the forward part of our flight deck.

Regarding the 1944 Typhoon:
In the troughs between the enormous waves, you would lose sight of a 55,000-Ton carrier just 6000 yards abeam. I remember seeing one such carrier with its flight deck peeled back like a top on a tin can. (Note that the largest carriers the U.S. had in WWII were 31,000 tons and even the post-WWII Midway class was only 45,000 tons, so I’m not sure what he is describing, here, although the Essex class was certainly the largest type we had at the time.)

The reference I found yesterday to the post-WWII storm in the Atlantic (that I guessed was the Wasp):
Three trips to England, including one through such a terrible storm that a battleship was forced to turn back along with a carrier that had its flight deck literally rolled up, and one to Italy where we broke the Normandie’s transatlantic speed record on the return trip.

A 1956 hurricane off the U.S. coast:
Early part of '56, prior to sailing for the Med., on a shake down cruise off of the U.S. coast, the Intrepid ran into a hurricane. The 'cane lasted for three days and literally destroyed everything above the water line. Flight deck was peeled back, catwalks & liferafts were gone, and thirty seven compartments were flooded.
(Contemporary photo showing open bows, possibly after repairs or before hurricane. And, of course, the Intrepid is an Essex class carrier.)

A 1989 incident referring to a destroyer’s helipad:As we again came alongside Kinkaid, I noted a huge gash in its starboard quarter. The flight deck also had been peeled back like a sardine can, and I could see inside the ship.

Now, I have not found any reference to British carriers damaged in that way and all the damaged decks for which we’ve got photos have been on Essex class carriers:
Hornet, June 1945
Bennington, same storm
Wasp, late 1945 - early 1946

Looking over those photos (taken after the storms in calm seas,) it would appear that in each of these cases, the storm could have smashed the decks upward, initially, and that the decks then fell (or were pushed) forward and down after the event, but before the photos.

You did a lot of searching, tomndebb! Strangely, the first link and the Hornet photo link are “forbidden” to me. I did find the description you listed under 1944 (the first one), but no photos. I could swear I saw a profile shot of a carrier with the flight deck sticking up!

Johnny L.A., after you get the error, highlight your location bar and hit enter.