The following is the dispatch, which was sent out by the COMSTRIKFLANT for a public press release.
Without warning, fog, an ancient and realistic enemy of seafarers, closed down on the Blue's Fast Carrier Task Force Wednesday afternoon catching 42 of its planes in the air with the nearest landing field 450 miles north on the southernmost tip of Greenland, beyond the fuel capacity of the aircraft.
Only the co-ordinated efforts of the ships and their aviators, plus a last minute miracle of nature, enabled every plane to land safely on carrier decks instead of ditching at sea for which orders had been issued.
When the last planes landed on the carriers at 1830 hours, they were ten minutes beyond the moment when their fuel tanks were due to be empty.
The critical situation was caused when heavy layers of fog blew in from the southwest. The nearest landing field and it was unmanned was Bluiewest Number One in Greenland.
The planes from the U.S. carriers BENNINGTON and WASP and the Canadian carrier MAGNIFICENT had taken off under favorable conditions shortly after 1330 hours. Light at first and then rapidly thickening, the fog rolled over the ocean. Recall for the planes were issued at 1420 hours. Ten managed to land before the fog settled to a ceiling of 100 to 200 feet.
Repeatedly, attempts were made to coach the planes to the carrier decks by radar, but the pilots could not get low enough to see the decks. Repeatedly, thousands of anxious ears on the ships could hear the unseen pilot's gun up from the sea through a solid wall of fog.
Rear Admiral Hugh H. Goodwin, tactical commander of the carrier task force ordered the normal formation broken up. The battleship IOWA and accompanying cruisers all dropped well astern of the carriers to eliminate the hazard of masts and high structures for the aviators. Then the three carriers were positioned parallel to one another.
Again the pilots fought to find their decks. Again, it was impossible. At 1620 hours planes in the air had an estimated fuel time of exactly two hours remaining.
Reports from planes above the formation and from available outlying ships and estimates of fleet aerologists gave no hope of reaching any open area with the carriers before every plane would be out of fuel.
Then came a message from the Blue Force submarine REDFIN 110 miles to the west. Ceiling in its immediate vicinity was 1,000 feet with two-mile visibility. Though the carriers could not reach the spot in time, the planes could just make it before dark. After consultation between Admiral Combs and Rear Admiral Goodwin, the decision was made for the planes to head for the REDFIN and ditch.
Then, just as darkness approached, the fog in the ships' course began to thin and the ceiling to lift as well. Ships, which had been blotted out, from one another, took shape through the fog.
Once again the planes were turned back toward their carriers. One by one they shot down through the white blanket to whichever carrier deck was convenient and ready to take them. At 1820 hours with night at hand, ten planes were still in the air though their estimated fuel time was gone. Lights blazed on all ships, the first time since leaving port.
At 1828 came the word, "last plane recovered". Personnel on every ship were as thankful as the aviators that an isolated patch of warm water enroute to the REDFIN had opened the fog at exactly the critical minute to permit the planes to land on friendly decks instead of in the cold North Atlantic.
Vice Admiral Combs sent a "well done" to all ships and pilots concerned in the recovery operation which probably can be classed as one of the most important experiences in training that the involved units will obtain in the current exercise. This release can be detached and mailed home. More copies are available from division officers.
Because of the quality of the paper and print,
I had to retype the entire article.
Joe Pires SK3