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March 9 2012 at 1:47 AM
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Nelson  (no login)

Response to A better picture of USN float biplanes


Upon reflection (and rereading), I suspect I didn't do justice to some of your questions. In this follow-up, the unwritten reminder in more than one answer is, again, no amount of not finding something ever proves a negative. That is, whether in seeking instances of this or that piece of equipment aboard a specific ship or in a particular military campaign, or the existence of this or that subatomic particle in the field of quantum physics, success may well be a function of where and how one searches and/or a reflection on one's finding devices. Back to inputs from the both of us, first of all on Vought O2U and O3U floatplanes.

You wrote:

"But what about O3Us? It does appear that this improved version of the Corsair did only go to heavy cruisers (and battleships) to replace O2Us while, more or less at the same time OJ-2s went to the OMAHAs to replace O2Us. SOCs replaced both O3Us and OJ-2s in 1935."

Okay, we both agree that O2Us were used pretty much across the board in Omaha class CLs, a variety of classes of CAs, and probably BBs (after all, O3Us were abundant on battleships, so their immediate Vought predecessors, on which the new aircraft had been based, were likely also aboard BBs). In a not-very-expansive search, I've found photographic and/or textual proof that the final Vought Corsair floatplane, the O3U, was found aboard battleships, heavy cruisers, and ONE Omaha class light cruiser, Milwaukee (CL 5). Now, having found that single instance of O3U-1s aboard one Omaha class CL, may we expect to find that floatplane type on some of her sisters? Yeah, sure, just a matter of looking in the right places, and that reflects on something I originally wrote.

"One caveat before we continue: some of the photos from the interwar period identifying the biplanes aboard these ships as Vought O2Us may be incorrect. They may be instead Berliner-Joyce OJ-2s."

Factoring in the Vought O3Us--which clearly I hadn't done--would appreciably change some of that thinking. First of all, the O3U, particularly the O3U-3, was a more modern aircraft than the O2U and would permit its staying aboard longer and not necessitate its replacement so soon. To repeat, I don't know if any Omaha class CL other than Milwaukee was ever equipped with O3U-1s; I don't know if ANY Omaha class CL got O3U-3s. So at the same time, the photo-identification of floatplanes aboard these ships is a dual question of whether O2Us or O3Us, and whether O3U-3s or OJ-2s. Which is to say that including O3U Corsairs changes the equation not a little. Not surprisingly, then, I'm still wrestling with what sort of floatplanes can be seen aboard Milwaukee in that "early 1930s" image.

To my "I don't think that all ten Omaha class cruisers received the interim Berliner-Joyce OJ-2," you asked, "Is there any reason NOT to believe that all ten OMAHAs got their OJ-2s to replace the Vought O2Us?"

Intuitively there is no such reason, but despite a LOT of looking, I've not found OJ-2s on most of the Omahas--just Concord (CL 10), Trenton (CL 11), Marblehead (CL 12), and Memphis (CL 13), and not all of those photographically. If, again, the navy put Vought O3Us on the first six Omahas, e.g., Milwaukee (for which there is such photographic proof), that may have reduced the necessity for providing more Berliner-Joyce OJ-2s. Right now, then, although my mind is completely open, intuition tells me that not all the Omahas had OJ-2s: some had them, others had O3Us (but I don't know if O3U-3s).

I have no doubt that the OJ-2 was restricted to Omaha class light cruisers, but the question we should be asking is, given that restriction and the very limited number made, why indeed the Berliner-Joyce OJ-2? Compounding that reality is the rather short tenure this floatplane enjoyed (or not). The SOC that equipped so many different kinds of floatplane-carrying warships was first put aboard an Omaha class light cruiser. That cruiser was Marblehead and the date November 1935. See

Not to run this point into the ground, but Marblehead was one of the Omahas to carry the OJ-2, specially designed and built not all that long before for that selfsame class of light cruisers. That late date in 1935 suggests that the complete replacement of the OJ-2s--and in my strong opinion, the persisting O2Us and O3Us--extended well into 1936 at the very least. To emphasize that not-run-into-the-ground point, lets go back to my first photo-essay on the Omahas, and look at just two members of the cast of characters, Memphis (CL 13) and Milwaukee (CL 5):

In the course of only several short years, from the late 1920s (when she carried Vought OU-1s), to ca. 1936, in what must have been a bewildering succession, Memphis got re-equipped with Vought O2U-1s (and maybe later O3U-1s), then Berliner-Joyce OJ-2s, and then Curtiss SOCs. Extending these frequent and just-dont-blink-your-eyes replacements into the early war, sometime in 1942 she received her final installment, of Vought OS2Us. Whew!!

As far as Milwaukee, we know she had O3U-1 Corsairs (and almost certainly the predecessor O2Us), followed perhaps not directly by SOC Seagulls and after them, OS2U Kingfishers. At some point, whatever early 1930s means, she had float biplanes with partial cowlings, either O3U-3s or OJ-2s.

Therefore I must predict once again, not all ships within the Omaha class experienced the same succession of floatplane types and not all of them carried Berliner-Joyce OJ-2s. One man's opinion.


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  • O3U Corsairs - Jacques on Mar 9, 2012, 7:46 AM
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