Given smooth and steady movement, they worked like a charm. Aboard a ship that was operating in company with aircraft carriers there was no problem at all.
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As planes flew about, my orders were always: "Dry-track. Get so that handling that Mark 14 sight is second nature. After the first fortunately lone kamikaze had been splashed close aboard Idaho 's port side by the condition watch, I didn't even have to remind people.
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This was the Mark 14 sight mounted on the 20mm Oerlikon. Sperry Gyroscope produced a total of 85, of these sights during the war. But the Mark 14 also controlled the 40mm Bofors. It was mounted on the Mark 51 director, a perfect combination. The Mark 51 was a simple handlebar arrangement with a backstrap for the operator.
The gun mount followed the director's movements through a system of synchro motors. This remoteness from the gun mount eliminated the vibration that was. German battleship Scharnhourst firing on British aircraft carrier Glorious , 8 June In firing tens of thousands of rounds, the vibration never bothered me, but I can understand that in the smoke of battle it may have been a distraction because under vibration the reticle tended to blur. The remoteness of the Mark 51 also avoided much of the smoke from a 40mm-quad.
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With the station, personnel, and guns in place and with customers within five miles, we only needed something to shoot at. Every day it seemed as if there was some reason why the plane from NAS Bermuda could not make it. But those fliers had another job: hunting German submarines. Our frustration did not last long. Captain Scott had chosen wisely. By this time Julian seemed to know everybody in both navies. On board the cruiser HMS Exeter , on which the German pocket battleship Graf Spee was concentrating her fire, George was climbing an exposed ladder when a hit splattered him with shrapnel.
He had just two fliers in his Bermuda command.
The senior was Ian McLaughlin, one of 46 survivors from the aircraft carrier HMS Glorious and her two destroyers that were intercepted by battleships Scharnhorst and Gneisenau as they returned from the Norway debacle without a heavy escort. How a carrier with two destroyers could be surprised by battleships, when it should have been the other way around, is pretty hard to understand, but that was the way it happened.
None of these ships had radar at that early stage of the war. Glorious had no reconnaissance planes aloft and nobody in her crow's nest. Ian told me that Scharnhorst's first salvo carried away the main radio antenna, preventing Glorious from reporting her predicament. Inexplicably, neither of the destroyers sent off a radio report. In any case, Ian survived for some days with his legs in the water. The damage to the blood vessels of his legs made him unfit for further carrier duty. Thus, like George, Ian was sent to the mild climate of Bermuda, also with his family.
Their other flyer was Trevor David, a bearded, quick-witted sublieutenant, late of Oxford. The RN pilots never missed a day flying for any reason, and they never asked if we would soon be finished for the day. In December , when we began doing some night firing at sleeves illuminated by searchlight one of Julian's ideas , they handled that too, even while continuing to fly during the day. George and Allison Fowler had made a family of all his officers and their families, and we three lonely Americans were taken into the brood. We entertained them at Southlands, and they provided us a second home at their residence.
While Julian and Larry ran the show and dealt with the outside world, I as senior instructor concentrated on instruction and activities on the firing line. As a lifelong wing-shot, I became enamored of the Mark 14 sight and was soon an advocate. The sight needed an advocate at that point in the war because it tended to have a bad reputation among many old hands.
Older gunner's mates would sometimes tell trainees to look around. The personnel of Antiaircraft Training Center, Bermuda.
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This method was known as tracer control. What its advocates did not realize was that the human eye, with limited inter-pupillary space, could judge distance only to about yards, beyond which all is optical illusion. As soon as I began firing it myself, the reason for the problem became clear.
Firing-line instructors were gunner's mates. They felt their job was to teach the guns and to put the students through the firing line. The guns were not the problem. The students simply were firing before they were ready. I soon had students dry-tracking and learning to handle the reticle before actually firing. And just to show that the Mark 14 was not as bad as they might have heard, I often fired demonstration runs myself in those early months, sometimes on the 20mm and sometimes on the 40mm. I well recall an experience that indicated something of the nature of the problem.
With Larry Springer setting range, I announced that we would fire three runs with a 40mm twin. However, when we shot the sleeves down on the first two runs and the flyer was stringing another sleeve, our chief came to me and said, "Mr. Wallace, I wish you and Mr.
Springer wouldn't shoot anymore. We have to get these men to lunch. I wrote mimeographed handouts on various subjects during my time in Bermuda, including a fairly thorough one on the Mark I even received plaudits from the Sperry Gyroscope people on that one, and they sent a representative out to Bermuda to meet me. They were happy to find anyone with a kind word for their sight. With all of the accelerated experience, our enlisted men matured rapidly, and we promoted them accordingly. We soon produced our own chief gunner's mate, and Smitty proved to have fine leadership qualities.
Julian, a perceptive administrator, realizing that in our informal atmosphere a steadily growing aggregation of green enlisted men needed some organization, got Admiral James to lend us a Marine sergeant. Sergeant Leady, a mature, personable man with a talent for leadership, quickly turned out a happy, orderly crew.
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I was particularly impressed because he could hit about anything he shot at with a Colt. In the early stages of our operation when trainees were scarce, Julian, the consummate PR man, also sold Admiral James on the idea that all Navy officers should be introduced to the antiaircraft problem. As a result, all of the junior officers at the base were scheduled for three days of training at Southlands. Bermuda was a quiet base and gunnery was glamorous, so our program became. Even some of the supply officers managed to get in on it.
The Royal Navy also had an antiaircraft training center in Bermuda, but it possessed meager resources. We did all we could to help them.
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An enthusiastic Britisher who visited often was Captain Paul A. Curtis, for several years the celebrated gun editor of Field and Stream magazine. Paul was training snipers and was a deadly shot with any weapon. When one of their officers complained that his men could not get their 20mm to work, I sent a gunner's mate back to his ship with him that evening. It turned out that they had never removed the Cosmoline!
Apparently we were all learning by doing.