Erroneously landing on an enemy aircraft carrier?!

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DLee12
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Erroneously landing on an enemy aircraft carrier?!

Post by DLee12 » Sat Feb 20, 2021 9:24 am

Hi -

Sorry if this has been asked here before or if this is a stupid question for any reason, but the Battle of The Coral Sea in early May 1942, since it was the very first naval battle in which enemy ships never came within sight of each other, there were so many errors & mistakes made by both the U.S. & Japanese forces that once, supposedly, airplanes even mistakenly landed on an enemy aircraft carrier.....really?!

I can't remember where I read about it (a couple years ago), but where I can find more info. about it & its details? Did it actually ever happen? During the Battle of the Coral Sea? Or was it actually in some other battle?

Any attempt to help would be well-appreciated - THANKS very much.

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wadinga
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Re: Erroneously landing on an enemy aircraft carrier?!

Post by wadinga » Tue Feb 23, 2021 5:51 pm

Hi DLee12,

There are no stupid questions, although sometimes conclusions appear dumb.

The following is a recollection from Bill Surgi, a midshipman aboard the Yorktown at the time of the incident:
The LSO sees an aircraft with wide spread, fixed landing gear coming into the landing pattern. It was a Japanese Aichi Type 99 “Val” dive bomber, so he waves it off, and the Japanese pilot took the wave off. Our skipper, Capt. Buckmaster, passed the word ‘stand by to repel boarders’.
The full story is recounted at https://tacairnet.com/2014/01/09/wrong-ship-sherlock/

There are a number of jokes circulating about the idea of a keen young American pilot joyfully reporting his successes on landing to a strangely inscrutable officer in an unfamiliar uniform who is somehow less than impressed. An apocryphal event.

All the best

wadinga
"There seems to be something wrong with our bloody ships today!"

DLee12
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Re: Erroneously landing on an enemy aircraft carrier?!

Post by DLee12 » Thu Feb 25, 2021 8:21 am

THANKS very much! - That's fascinating, and exactly the type of info. I was looking for!

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RF
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Re: Erroneously landing on an enemy aircraft carrier?!

Post by RF » Thu Feb 25, 2021 8:50 am

I would have thought that if it was an enemy aircraft you would shoot it down rather than allow it in close to land or fly straight into the ship.... as the Japanese were to later do.
''Give me a Ping and one Ping only'' - Sean Connery.

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Re: Erroneously landing on an enemy aircraft carrier?!

Post by wadinga » Sat Feb 27, 2021 7:40 pm

Hello RF,

As the article suggests, in the dusk and from head-on, one radial engine aircraft looks much like another, until it gets real close. Presumably one carrier looks much like another too. :D

All the best

wadinga
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Re: Erroneously landing on an enemy aircraft carrier?!

Post by Bill Jurens » Sun Feb 28, 2021 10:25 pm

I believe these stories are largely just that 'sea-stories'.

Most or all aircrew approached a carrier using quite specific routines regarding courses, speeds, and altitudes, etc. These are unlikely to have been similar in both navies. Also, as part of the recognition system, most approaching aircraft were required to approach on certain 'safe' bearings and altitudes, often making a specific type of turn, etc. so that the receiving ship would recognize them as 'friendlies'. Radio and light signals were exchanged also, although admittedly these might not always work if the approaching aircraft was damaged.

It's implausible to conclude that an incoming pilot, who would presumably be in visual touch with a landing signal officer, would not also recognize that the ship he was landing on was not one of his own. Also, as the pilots were required to follow landing signal officer signals, it would be immediately apparent to both LSO and pilot that they weren't talking the same language.

Also, although I'm unfamiliar with the precise details, it's improbable that the arresting gear arrangements were similar enough to allow an American aircraft to utilize a Japanese arresting system or vice-versa. And, of course, screening vessels surrounding the carriers were tasked with the job of ensuring approaching aircraft were friendlies as the approaching aircraft passed over.

So although these sorts of ideas might make good 'long tales', I'm not sure there's much chance that they actually occurred in real life.

Bill Jurens

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Re: Erroneously landing on an enemy aircraft carrier?!

Post by dunmunro » Mon Mar 01, 2021 12:00 am

In May 1942 it appears that IJN aircraft may have signalled a USN carrier in an attempt to land on her:


USNI Report on Coral Sea:
The combat patrols were landed well after sunset. In the case of the Yorktown, this was begun at 1858 and completed at 1930. While the fighters were in the landing circle, about 1800, three enemy planes flew by on the starboard side flashing lights. As they crossed the bow to port a Yorktown fighter opened fire on them without visible effect. Again, at 1910, enemy planes appeared over the Yorktown, which took them under small caliber fire briefly and drove them off.

There is some confusion among the different reports concerning the appearance of enemy planes over our task force. Captain Buckmaster of the Yorktown said that one enemy plane was downed by the fire of an unspecified screening ship, and that one of his carrier's planes was damaged by the firing.

Captain Sherman of the Lexington reported that planes also flew about his ship and that he opened fire upon receiving word from the Yorktown that they were hostile. He stated that the enemy planes mistook our force for their own, and that radar later showed them moving off only 30 miles to the eastward, circling, and apparently landing on a Japanese carrier.
http://www.ibiblio.org/hyperwar/USN/USN ... l-3.html#B
Lundstrom, First Team:
Just about to come on board the Yorktown, Macomber had to sheer off when the LSO gave him a waveoff because the deck was not clear. He climbed back to 1,000 feet and circled the ship. Just after 1850, he glimpsed an aircraft on the Yorktown’s starboard side signaling the ship by means of a hand-held Aldis lamp. This was not standard procedure at all, and Macomber thought instantly the intruder was Japanese. In the near blackout, three more Japanese dive bombers had stumbled upon Task Force 17. Evidently their pilots entertained second thoughts about their navigation and tried to find out whether the ships below were friendly by flashing a recognition signal. The ships did not turn on their searchlights in response, but neither did they open fire, adding to the uncertainty of the Japanese pilots...

....“Strange” indeed describes that evening. Enemy aircraft on three separate occasions had buzzed Task Force 17. Despite reports that the Japanese had actually tried to land on board, it appears far more likely they were puzzled and descended to check their navigation. The crews were night-trained and expected their carriers to illuminate with landing lights according to normal doctrine. The Japanese probably flashed something like “Turn on the lights,” or perhaps a special recognition code. They later complained that American radio communications greatly interfered with their radio direction finding/homing devices. It is quite possible the American CAP radio transmissions inadvertently drew the Japanese to Task Force 17 or just jammed their homers. Obviously the day’s two missions had taken a toll on the aviators, particularly the Zuikaku carrier bomber pilots, aloft since 0800 with only one hour’s doubtful respite.

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Re: Erroneously landing on an enemy aircraft carrier?!

Post by dunmunro » Mon Mar 01, 2021 12:01 am

D. P.

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RF
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Re: Erroneously landing on an enemy aircraft carrier?!

Post by RF » Mon Mar 01, 2021 10:10 am

If IJN aircrew landed on a US carrier by mistake in 1942 - what happens? Do they try to kill themselves to avoid being taken prisoner, shoot it out on the flight deck until they are killed? What about their aircraft? Destroy them first? And what about the US crewman response, as presumably the crewmen did not routinely carry firearms on deck?
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Re: Erroneously landing on an enemy aircraft carrier?!

Post by Steve Crandell » Mon Mar 01, 2021 4:28 pm

It could have been awkward. Nearby aviators would have pistols, but the ship would probably have had to issue weapons from a small arms locker somewhere.

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Re: Erroneously landing on an enemy aircraft carrier?!

Post by wadinga » Wed Mar 17, 2021 5:58 pm

Hi All,

Not a case of erroneously landing on a carrier, and somewhat off-subject, but a Holland-based Luftwaffe Ju88G-7 nightfighter's pilot misread his compass on 13th July 1944 and flew west instead of eastwards for Germany. Almost out of fuel and anxious for a place to land, he saw a green signal from the dim outline of an airfield in the early dawn. The crew bus at RAF Woodbridge, Suffolk drove out to meet what was expected to be a lost returning Mosquito, and the driver was surprised to find find three puzzled Luftwaffe airmen awaiting him. It is said he waved a Very flare pistol at them and persuaded them to hand over their sidearms.

The technical haul of vital information from this accidental capture was incredibly valuable including the deadly Flensburg passive radar homer which picked up the transmissions from the supposedly tail-protecting Monica active radar in RAF bombers, some sources say, from as much as 130 miles away. This allowed the nachtjaeger to close in and easily destroy its target, often without the active Monica even giving a warning to the doomed bomber crew. German nightfighters racked up huge scores against the bomber streams, night after night for months.

Later, intruder RAF Mosquito nightfighters would deliberately use Monica to draw in the nachtjaegers, then switch off and circle around to attack the hunter from behind.

All the best

wadinga
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Re: Erroneously landing on an enemy aircraft carrier?!

Post by Steve Crandell » Wed Mar 17, 2021 11:21 pm

Wow, thank you for that. Really interesting.

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RF
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Re: Erroneously landing on an enemy aircraft carrier?!

Post by RF » Thu Mar 18, 2021 9:57 am

I believe there was an incident in Belgium, around February 1940, when a German reconnaissance aircraft landed as a result of a navigation error at a military airfield. The crew were carrying details of the original German invasion plan of France in 1940 and there was a panic in Berlin that these plans had fallen into Belgian hands. As the plan was a rehash of the Schlieffen Plan this was particulary embarrassing.
Apparently the security breach here caused Hitler to order the invasion plans to be changed - the genesis for Mansteins' plan of attack through the Ardennes.
''Give me a Ping and one Ping only'' - Sean Connery.

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Re: Erroneously landing on an enemy aircraft carrier?!

Post by wadinga » Thu Mar 18, 2021 2:17 pm

Hi All,

The full and fascinating story of the 10th January 1940 crash in a Belgian field of the Bf-108 ending its unauthorised flight carrying part of the German invasion plan (and some laundry) is available on Wikipedia as the Mechelen Incident, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mechelen_incident

It is a story with excellent comedic content elements ranging from pure slapstick of the bungled attempts to destroy the plans, to the dark and tragic humour of the neutral countries' desperate hopes that they could stay out of the War by keeping their heads stuck firmly in the sand. It enters comic opera territory when the British, French and Belgian governments all tried in uncoordinated moves to avoid any actions which might trigger the end of the Sitzkrieg, in the vain hope that Hilter might not unleash his invasion forces, but might instead magically "cease to be" through economic pressures or domestic unrest.

There is some debate as to whether interim plans of January 1940 were ever going to be the final invasion plan, which emerged in May, and caught the Allies so flat-footed.

All the best

wadinga
"There seems to be something wrong with our bloody ships today!"

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