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Journal of the Australian Natal Institute

make eight successful landings and take oil's: this was changed in late 1944 to 14. Sable set an unbeaten record on her first day of operation on 28 May. 1943. when she recorded 59 pilots qualified in one day, which translated lo an ama/ing 488 landings in 531 minutes or. to put it another way. about one landing every minute for approximately nine hours! Wolverine made her claim to fame on 4 June. 1944 when she recorded 633 landings in a single day. Operations continued at this amazingly hectic pace right throughout the daylight hours until it was too dark for landings. The carriers would then turn about and steam through the night back to Chicago, often arriving in port just in time to turn around and do it all again. Operations were carried on sewn davs a week with the occasional day off operations for coaling.

Aircraft used in qualifying pilots consisted of a number of types used at the lime by the US Navy. Types known to have operated with Carrier Task Force X include: SBD "Dauntless". TBM "Avenger". F4F "Wildcat". F6F "Hellcat". F4U "Corsair" and the SNJ "Texan."

Not only did Wolverine and Sable qualify huge numbers of pilots, at the same time, they also provided invaluable training and experience for the all important flight deck crews without whom carrier operations could not be conducted. The levels of skill in aircraft handling achieved by the two carrier's flight deck crews can be seen by the statistics listed above. Among the most critical skills taught and practised aboard the Great Lakes carriers were those of landing signal officer (LSO) and flight deck officer (FDO). Originally, there were only two LSOs in Chicago, one for Wolverine and one for Sable. Early in her operational career. Wolverine's only LSO came down with appendicitis and all operations had to he halted for two weeks while he underwent surgery and convalescence. This incident brought home to the naxy the scarceness of this resource and a training program for LSOs was quickly developed, along with formal programs for FDOs and flight deck crews in general. Fortunately, if that is the word, CQ'TU was able to commence the LSO training program with five fully qualified LSOs as. besides Wolverine's and Sublets LSOs. three additional LSO became available throughout 1942 when their carriers Lexington, Yorkiown and Hornet were sunk, making them "suqilus to establishment" (so lo speak!).

Before concluding, it is worth considering the overall statistics arising from the operations of Wolverine and Sable and making a few quick comparisons. A staggering 40,000 carrier personnel were qualified under the Great Lakes program including pilots, LSOs, FDOs and flight deck crews. Of this rough

total, 17.820 pilots were qualified. Add to this a pilot accident rate of around 0.597 and one begins to appreciate the efficiency and value of these two unique ships. In comparison, while some carrier pilot training was conducted on the east and west coasts using escort carriers, it is illuminating to note that during the period 25 August 1942 to 2 December 1944. Wolverine and Sable qualified 9.729 pilots while USS Core (CVE-111 and Long Island (CVE-1 I qualified only 372! The entire cost of purchase and conversion of the two carriers came to S4,833.369:00 which, even by World War Two standards, was a paltry sum and was incredibly inexpensive in comparison lo the return on the investment.

All things come to an end of course. With the end of the war. the need for the two Great Lakes Hat tops was at an end and both ships were decommissioned tin 7 November. 1945 and laid up at Navy Pier. Chicago. Held in reserve for three years, the ships were stricken and sold for scrap in 1948. a somewhat ignominious end for two grand old ladies who had served the United States Navy well.

United Stales Ships Wolverine and Sable were two of the most unique ships ot the World War Two and were the result of the inspiration of one man, CMDR Richard Whitehead. The two children of his inspiration made an incredibly valuable contribution lo the United Stales' war effort and it is not beyond the realms of possibility that without their contribution, the outcome of the war may very well have been drastically different.


I wish to acknowledge the invaluable assistance of Mr Paul H. Durand of the Emil Buehler Naval Aviation Library of the National Museum of Naval Aviation at Pensacola. Florida, without whose assistance in the provision of obscure source material, not otherwise obtainable in Australia, this article could not have been written.


Dalit.sch. J.W.. 1991. TSS Wbhermt ftX-64) ami USS Sable (IX-81): The Ureal Lakes' Aircraft Carriers. pa|vr presented to t'S Maritime History Conference at US Coast Guard Academy. 28 Apr.

Durand. P.M.. Letter to ihe Author and Accompanying Hand Written Notes. Dated 20 December. I'WO

McMurtrie. F.E.. AINA. ted). 194b. Jan,\ Fighting Sft^tt 194445, Sampson. Low. Marslon & Co. Ltd.. London.

Preston. A.. 1976: An Illustrated History qj the Nat its ofWarld War II. Bison Books Limited. London.

_, 1979<Ainnill Carriers. Gallery Books. New York Ter/ibasehtisch. S.. 19X0, Airtniti Carrien "i the U.S. Navy VVi mul lulilinn. Conway Maritime Press Limited. London.


My/September 1998

Journal o) tile Australian Naval Institute


Minehunter Launch

Speech by Ken Harris, Managing Director, ADI Limited 24 April 1998

The Honourable Tim Fischer, Acting Prime Minister. General John Baker. Chief of the Defence Force. Councillor Greg Heys. Lord Mayor of Newcastle, other distinguished guests and fellow ADI employees. Could I specially welcome our launch lady. Mrs Jennifer Smythe.

Now. if I was to tell you that the ship you see in front of you is completely empty. I am prepared to hct that you would have the same emotional reaction as you watch it go down the slipway as if 1 had told you it was full of complex electronic technology.

I suspect that this is a sort of primal reaction to the thought of people setting forth on the great unknown who, when they were beyond the sight of land, were lost and in mortal danger.

But I suppose that is what makes launching ceremonies so emotional. If the invitation had invited you to watch Mrs Smyth break a bottle of champagne DVBt a silicone chip. I suspect all of you would have Suddenly discovered other things to do today.

Yet it is the things you cannot see from where you are sitting that makes this class of ship so typical of modern warships, and a wonderful illustration of the technological revolution that is sweeping through the military the same way it is sweeping through the world of business.

The primary purpose of the hull that you sec here is to keep the crew and the electronics dry. The essence of these ships, as with all other major items of defence equipment, lies in the systems and their integration rather than in the platform, to use the jargon, on which they operate.

While I would not wish to take away any of the warmth that all ol you feel on an occasion such as this. 1 would ask you to reflect a little on the significant changes that have taken place in the ship building industry, particularly in the warship building industry, in recent years. Just as Newcastle is moving away from the age of steel, so our industry is moving away from its traditions into electronics and information technology.

I would like to spend a couple of minutes, if I could, in saying something about what you can't see from where you are sitting: what it is that makes these ships and this project so successful.

The first thing is the skills of our employees. For a steel city it must be somewhat of a novelty to he

building ships out of plastic. But lei me assure you that the level of skill required in building the hulls out of this complex plastic material is very high indeed. Our employees knew nothing of this material before they were trained and. if Gianni Facehinetli will forgive me for boasting. I believe that the quality of our work surpasses that of any other plant around the world.

Our skilled workforce also includes a breed of people that would have been in the background in conventional ship building programmes. These people's skills lie in software, communications systems, understanding highly complex technology, and integrating these diverse technologies into a total system that performs in a way that will delight even the most demanding of customers.

The other things that are not visible from where you are sitting are the systems that go to make up this ship. The need for this ship to operate in very dangerous circumstances to seek and delect some of the steallhiest and most lethal weapons, requires a package of complex systems thai is designed to make the job of our customer as efficient and as safe as possible. This package of technology makes this minehunter the most modern and capable ship of iis type in the world

The other feature that is embodied in this ship is partnership. Modern, high technology projects cannot be carried out by any single company. ADI has been blessed in the relationships and partnerships it has huill up during the course of this project. I am very pleased that so many ol our business partners are with us today. We want all our partners lo look hack on this project with a feeling of achievement and pride in being involved in something very successful and important, and to be able to look back on a profitable business arrangement as well. It is only profitable companies that will stay in the defence business. Importantly, the partnership between the Company and our customer, the Royal Australian Navy, is a key element in the successful progress on this project, and I would like lo thank Captain Ken Joseph, the Navy's project director, for his support, and congratulate him and his team on the professional way in which they have carried out their side of the contract.

The other thing that is not visible from where you are sitting is project management. Coordinating a contract such as this with 1.70(1 subcontractors, a customer with a strong interest in a successful outcome, with so

July/September iwx


Journal of the Australian Naval Institute

much money involved, and our reputations on the line, is no easy task. Like the crew of the ship itself, our project managers have at their fingertips highly sophisticated software to assist them in dealing with this complexity. But. like the systems available to the officers and sailors who will use this ship, this technology will amount to nothing unless it is used by people of intelligence, integrity and imagination.

The last of the invisible factors that I want to mention today is design. Those of you who are familiar with the Gaeta class might look at the shape of the two ships and see a lot of similarities. The reality is, however, there has been a very significant amount of redesign of the ship and its equipment to make it suitable for Australian conditions and to satisfy the needs of the Australian customer. This design work was done in Australia, here at our site in Newcastle, again using the combination of very powerful software tools in the hands of highly skilled and committed Australians. You might be surprised to know that the Huon class is approximately 80vf Australian designed and. I believe, it is a great credit to Australian industry generally that a project of this si/.e and complexity can be carried forward from beginning to end with such a high level of Australian intellectual and physical content.

I use the expression "Australian industry" advisedly because we have with us today some key people from

the Department of Defence, as well as people representing international companies. Between ADI and other companies in Australia - our competitors and partners - the intellectual and industrial base in this country is capable of taking on the most demanding projects, and no one should have any nervousness at all about the ability of Australia's defence industry to take on the most difficult challenges.

As to ADI's future, those people who are managing the Company's privatisation programme, and those who might be contemplating investing in ADI will. I am certain. gel detailed and expensive advice about the Company's balance sheet. You would. I am sure, appreciate that the key assets that make this Company tick, and make projects like the minehunters succeed, are not shown on our balance sheet. These assets have the disconcerting habit of walking out the front door at the end of each day to go home to their families. I. for one. am very grateful that they come back again the next day.

Thank you again for spending time with us today, and I hope you enjoy your visit to our Newcastle facility.

ADI Limited

21 April 1998


July/September IWS


5* **. "

The Hiam Class undergoing sea trials off Newcastle.


Journal of the Australian Naval Institute

The Newcomb Building

HMAS Watson

Display of Newcomb memorabilia in the entrance lobby.


n 28 October 1497 the Royal Australian Navy's Surface Warfare School Building was formally renamed the "NEWCOMB BUILDING", commemorating the service of Captain Harvey Mansfield Newcomb.

At the end of 1938 LCDR Newcomb RN was serving as First Lieutenant and Senior Instructional Officer at HMS Osprey. the Royal Navy's anti-submarine training establishment. War with Germany was becoming increasingly likely, and with the threats presented by U-boats in the Great War still fresh in their memories, the Lords of the Admiralty decided to establish an anti-submarine training school in Sydney.

Newcomb was selected for the task, given the rank of Acting Commander, and sent to Sydney at the end of that year. He was accompanied by 9 A/S trained ratings.

The story of HMAS Rushcutter has been told in the book "CONTACT!", produced by the Anti-Submarine Officers' Association, and need not be repeated here. Suffice it to say that by the outbreak of war 66 officers and 32 ratings had completed anti-submarine training.

A flow of officers and ratings to the Royal Navy began almost immediately, so that when the Gentian invasion of France saw fighting begin in earnest Rushcutter trainees were already serv ing in the North Atlantic. For example, in the ill-fated Norwegian campaign there was an Australian A/S officer in each of the 8 large trawlers comprising the 15th and 16th A/S Striking Forces. In the crucial Battle of the Atlantic Rushcutter men comprised some 20% of the

Allied A/S personnel, the best record going to Stanley Darling, who was credited with sinking 3 U-boats and finished as Captain RANR. Rushcutter graduates were regarded by the Admiralty as being of top calibre.

By the end of the War 326 officers and 1286 ratings had been trained in A/S in Rushcutter. while a large number of officers had completed short courses, including a league of nations of foreign officers.

Newcomb himself was denied the chance of exercising his skills in action, but there is no doubt that by putting his stamp on the A/S School he made made a remarkable contribution to the final victory. The local manufacture of A/S equipment would warrant a story in itself. His responsibilities grew until they embraced the Gunnery Instructional Centre, the Radar School, the Motor Launch


July/September 1998

Journal of the Australian Naval Institute


School, the Mining Service, the Naval Auxiliary Patrol, Randwick Hospital Naval Wing. Canonbury Hospital. DEMS Staff and tenders.

Late in 1045. by then an Acting Captain, he was invited by the Naval Board to stay in Australia and organise the new Electrical Branch of the RAN. He accepted the challenge and produced a most efficient and successful branch, the members being much sought after by civilian firms. His promotion to Captain RN (Rtd) paralleled this employment as Captain RAN.

As his children had grown up in Australia he decided to stay here, and "swallowed the anchor" on 27 September 1956. after eighteen years of outstanding service to the RAN and to Australia. He died in Adelaide on 16 January 1991.

Captain Newcomb never received a decoration. The inevitable question is: "Why?" His contribution to the war effort was immense. Those who knew him well dismiss any thought that he could have offended a single one of his seniors. The explanation appears to lie in the fact that for some time after the War the RAN saw him as an RN officer, while the Admiralty regarded him as the responsibility of the RAN. The fact remains that he was overlooked. "Newcs". as one and all called him. just got on with his job.

The failure to accord Captain Newcomb his just recognition greatly concerned his "old boys", some of whom received decorations for using skills learnt at the School he ran. It can now be revealed that over several years efforts to rectify the omission were made by various of the "old boys", one of whom was a Cabinet Minister. There was no success, perhaps due to the passage of years. The award of a Chief of Naval Staff Commendation in 1989 was appreciated, but was only a minute tribute to his services.

The posthumous dedication of the NEWCOMB Building gave great satisfaction to Captain Harvey Newcomb's many admirers. Captain Martyn Bell CSC ADC. RAN gave the address of dedication, asking Chaplain John Connolly MSC RAN to perform ' the blessing. The Chaplain said, inter alia, "May the name Newcomb be an inspiration to all who sene their country with diligence and honour". The ceremony was attended by members of the ASDIC Association and the Anti-Submarine Officers' Association, while Watson turned on an excellent lunch in the Senior Sailors' Mess. Mr Simon Newcomb unveiled a plaque provided by the two Associations, which paid tribute to his Father's memory and included the message: "TO YOU WHO FOLLOW WE PASS THE TORCH".


This plaque commemorates the naming of the Newcomb Building


28 October 1997

in honour and everlasting memory of

Captain Harvey Mansfield Newcomb - Royal Navy


Presented by the ASDIC Association and the Anti-Submarine Officers Association Unveiled by his son Simon Newcomb

Memorial plaque at the entrance to the Newcomb Building.

July/September I99H


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