The function of a patrol bomber is to undertake regular reconnaissance , usually over water, looking for hostile shipping, submarines , and aircraft.
The dominating quality of patrol-bomber design is the ability to stay in the air for a considerable period. Flying boats are usually selected for this task, the reason being that they can land on the water if necessary for refueling and servicing. Designed in most cases so that the crew have a clear and uninterrupted view of the sea beneath them, the patrol bomber is usually a high-winged monoplane.
Typical of the best American patrol bombers is the Martin PBM Mariner. The Mariner is a biggish boat weighing some 40,000 pounds with full load and is powered by two 2000-hp. Cyclones which give it a cruising speed of something over 200 miles per hour. It has retractable wing-tip floats and can be used as a torpedo bomber, carrying its torpedoes under the engine nacelles.
There is little news available of the Mariners in action, but there is no reason to believe that, with its rear turret and forward-firing guns, the Mariner could not be a veritable "Pop-eye," when attacked by enemy aircraft. It carries a sufficient weight of bombs and depth charges to deal with enemy submarines. A descendant of the Martin line of seaplanes, and a cousin of the gigantic Martin Mars, this plane is a worthy example of what's new in patrol bombers. These boats cost a great deal of money and take a long time to build. They are constructed like ocean-going ships and fitted with sleeping bunks, cooking galleys, and everything necessary for the pilots and crew of eleven to live aboard for a considerable time.
The 70-ton Martin Mars is probably the largest patrol bomber in the world. It has a span of 200 feet and is powered by four 2000-hp. Wright Cyclones. It is said to have a range exceeding 6000 miles and ought to be fast. If produced in any numbers, ships of this type would be ideal for the trans-Atlantic submarine patrol, because they would be able to fly from America to Europe and back without refueling. Should their fuel be exhausted, the huge boats could land on the sea, and be refueled from supply ships just as are the Navy's destroyers. Its armament is at present a military secret, but if fitted with adequate numbers of machine guns and cannon, in its six gun positions, the Mars might well live up to its name as a warrior.
In his book, War Planes of All Nations, Mr. William Winter, editor of Air Trails, states that the flight deck and part of the main deck of the Mars are "pressurized" for comfort on long flights at high altitudes.
In considering the flying boat as a weapon of war, we have to remember that construction of this type of ship is slow. Several Liberty merchant ships could be built in the time taken to assemble this gigantic battleship of the air, so it is unlikely that we shall see much of the Mars during this present conflict. Its great range and carrying capacity would make it an ideal weapon for use in overcoming the vast distances of the Pacific. When we consider that the ship could carry well over a hundred armed troops with light artillery, or probably some eight tons of bombs, it might well present itself as the right ship for use against the Japanese.
Five hundred Mars bombers based in the Aleutians and another five hundred on Midway might carry the war to the enemy. The success of such an action, however, would depend on the protective armor and armament of these huge fellows and their ability to fly at high altitude. As a firm believer in big flying boats and armored battleships of the air, I see in the Mars, the Flying Fortress, and their developments, the warplane of the future.
Typical of good flying boat design is the Navy's PB2Y-3 the Consolidated Coronado, which is literally a flying battleship. What the Coronado has done in this war is as much a secret as the actual details of this super-giant, which is said to have a range of several thousand miles, and ranks as one of the most heavily armed patrol bombers put into service. Equipped with sleeping and living quarters , it has all the necessary comforts for its crew of ten for long flights. Bomb load is probably 4000 pounds.
The Coronado is powered by four 1200-hp. Pratt and Whitney Twin Wasps and has a maximum speed of 230 miles per hour. It is easily identifiable by the twin tail fins which resemble those of the Liberator.
The smaller Consolidated Catalina is the patrol bomber that has earned for itself more honors and glamor than any of the others. It is the oldest ship of its type in service and, as can be seen in the chapter on the Liberator, has one of the most interesting pedigrees, as interesting as its varying exploits which range from dive bombing to submarine strafing and hundreds of sea rescues.
The Catalina, only a year younger than the Boeing Flying Fortress , has been making aerial history since it first flew in 1936. This PBY-5 is some ship. It has a terrific range, a high quotient of reliability, and in spite of its low speed can undertake a variety of jobs. The Navy men who fly "Cats" swear by them, although judging from their slow speed, you would think they were more a handicap than an asset. But there it is, the Cats have fought the Japs and the Nazis. They have sunk submarines, spotted battleships , and shot down fighter planes and enemy patrol bombers.
They have dived bombed, and sent torpedoes zooming through the water. They have rescued starving survivors from rafts, and they have carried wounded men to safety.
I actually started writing this chapter in the radio compartment of a Catalina, flying over the Gulf of Mexico. I sat typing away with the plane's captain sitting above me in his queer little turret that is actually the supporting pylon for the huge main wing, set high above the hull. Later I went forward and climbed in the high seat of the co-pilot. I sat watching the pilot at his massive controls.
He smiled at me and pointed to the sea beneath. I saw him put his stick down. It is not really a stick, but rather a stout bar with two wheels attached, running across the entire cockpit. He seemed to be putting his whole weight on it. Down went the nose. We were soon notching up a high speed in the dive, as if we were going down to attack an enemy surface ship.
Down we swooped, almost to the surface, as steep a dive as I could imagine was possible in such a big ship. Then the pilot trimmed the plane and began to pull her out, not the easy job it looked. I saw him strain at the elevator control. Up went the nose, and soon we were climbing furiously with the huge engines roaring lustily. At 4000 feet, he put the big boat into a vertical bank. I looked at the sea down the leading edge of one wing, and at the sky along the other. The bubble in the bank indicator was dead steady.
It was a perfect turn, and exceptional piloting. "I thought you would like to see what she could do," said the pilot afterwards. He was as proud of his ship as if it had been a sleek new fighter. "The Catalina is the best ship in service," he said. "We can fight with 'em, bomb with 'em, do anything we're asked."
Certainly the Catalina has all the best features of flying boat design. The bottom of the hull is constructed in a series of three steps rather like those of a racing motor boat. After the last step, the fuselage slims considerably to end in a point under the tail assembly with its high single fin. There is a turret amidships fitted with two .50-caliber guns. Forward from this turret are the crew's quarters, four or eight bunks in a separate bulkhead. Further forward is the radio compartment and navigator's desk. Right in the nose under the pilot is a bomb-aiming compartment and a flexible gun. One of the first things you notice boarding a Catalina is that it is built inside like an ocean-going ship. There are signs everywhere warning the crew not to throw refuse in the bilges, and there is a cooking galley on which one of the eleven crew prepares meals, and everywhere on the flying boat is a truly nautical atmosphere.
The Catalina's wings are set particularly high on a kind of pedestal , where the flight engineer, who is usually the plane captain, sits during flight. From his position he can attend to the engines, oil, and gasoline. Taking off in a Catalina is an experience. The big boats are fitted with taxiing gear, consisting of wheels attached to the hull. As they go down into the water, these wheels are detached, after the machine has taxied out to the take-off at high speed. If the sea is rough, the spray dashes well over the nose. You have to keep the windows tightly sealed to avoid a ducking. With the tail up, the Catalina begins to buck and jump from wave to wave.
Three or four hard jolts and the spray ceases. She is in the air, and climbing rapidly. Landing is neat but noisy. The pilot brings the big ship down in a slow glide. There is a sudden sharp slap as the hull hits the water, and again the see-saw taxiing to shore, with the freshening sea lashing over the bow.
If the ship is to be moored off shore, the sea anchor is dropped, and it really is some anchor. Whenever possible, the planes are taken up the landing chutes. That process is typical of Navy ingenuity and can be a very tough one if the weather is at all rough.
As the ship comes in, the landing crew in bathing suits swim out to meet her, bringing with them landing gear which floats because of its inflated tires. These they attach in a matter of minutes. A cable is then attached to the tail, and a tractor on the shore hauls the Catalina to dry land. In summer, the landing crew have a difficult enough job. It takes two or three men to submerge one of the big wheels. They have to hold it under water while another man drives home the bolt to secure the landing gear to the hull. It needs only a medium wave to jerk the buoyant wheel out of the hands of the men who are holding it, and the procedure must be started all over again. Watching this plane crew in the water, I remembered that Cats have been in action in the bitter cold of the Aleutian winter, and off the coasts of England—and posed the question. The answer was that cold or warm, there was only one way of getting a Catalina to shore. Frankly, theirs would be a job I should not like in winter.
The good qualities of the Catalina are found in its range, some 4000 miles at 140 miles per hour, and in its ruggedness. It carries two tons of bombs or depth charges, or two torpedoes. Even though it was not built for combat, this chunky flying boat has acquitted itself as gloriously as that other civilian in uniform, the Lockheed Hudson.
Perhaps the most epic instance of a Catalina's contribution to the greater events of the war was when one of these patrol bombers , cruising the mid-Atlantic, spotted the German battleship Bismarck as she was limping home to Brest, France, after her battle with the Hood, which had been sunk by a direct hit in her magazines . In spite of heavy antiaircraft fire, the Catalina stalked its prey and brought the big ships of the British Navy, with escorting destroyers, to send the pride of the Nazi Navy to the bottom.
For the Catalina, this was a routine job. These machines, with their eighteen hours' flying time, are ideal for long, painstaking, patrols, covering square mile after square mile of ocean, cruising slowly to scrutinize every object below—raft, mine, or deserted boat.
The R.A.F. Coastal Command pilots went enthusiastically "nuts" about the Catalinas. Their unusual flying time proved a boon in coastal defense. After they first went into service, an R.A.F. spokesman asserted that there could not be too many of these remarkable ships. Only one thing was better than a Catalina, said he, and that was another Catalina on the same patrol.
The Catalina has probably sunk more submarines than any other patrol plane. One bombed a submarine from such low altitude that the blast of the bomb blew a hole in the port wing and severed the Cat's fuel and oil lines. The port engine began to burn, and the carbon dioxide fire extinguisher was put out of order. The Catalina crew leaped into action, and the plane captain went out on the wing and succeeded in beating out the fire. Then the plane flew back to its base three hundred miles away on one engine. Thirtysix hours later it was ready for another bombing mission.
A Catalina in the R.A.F. Coastal Command shared the distinction with a Hudson of capturing a U-boat intact. When the Hudson 's gas gave out, after accepting the U-boat's surrender, a lone Catalina arrived and held the U-boat captive for eleven hours until the Navy escort vessels took over. Another Catalina crippled a German four-engined reconnaissance bomber so badly that it became easy prey for the Coastal Command's Beaufighters.
One Catalina cruising in West Indian waters found a German submarine surfaced. When the flying boat crept up on them, the sub crew were taken completely by surprise, basking in the sunshine . The pilot of the Catalina, Lieutenant John Edwin Dryden, had sighted the U-boat from eight miles away and immediately glided down to attack. As he swept his heavy boat down, his gunners opened fire from three hundred yards with their .50-caliber guns and plastered the decks of the submarine. One of the crew on the deck collapsed; the others jumped into the sea. Lieutenant (j.g.) Stetson C. Beal, of Lisbon Falls, Maine, the co-pilot, then dropped four depth charges. One of these cracked the U-boat into sections. The center section went under first; then the bow and
stern rose in the air and gurgled to the bottom. The crew in the circling Catalina watched the huge oil slick spreading to mark the grave of the undersea raider. They saw eleven blackened, greasecovered bodies swimming in the oily scum. The Cat dipped low, and the work of rescue began. The Americans dropped life rafts, life jackets, and emergency rations. Six of the Germans failed to cling onto the wreckage; five finally clambered on board one of the rafts. They began waving frantically, appealing to the plane to land, but the sea was too rough, so the Catalina returned to its base, later to dispatch a rescue vessel.
The list of Catalina rescues reads like the logbook of a Coast Guard rescue boat. Hundreds of shipwrecked sailors owe their lives to pilots and crews of these patrol bombers. On one occasion, a Cat pilot spotted seventeen survivors of a torpedoed vessel, drifting on a raft. They had been without food or water for sixty hours in the sun and were so exhausted that they could not reach the provisions and first-aid kit dropped near by. The pilot decided, therefore, to land, although the sea was very rough..He loaded all the survivors into his plane, and took off in the face of a swift gale. Neither he nor the crew expected to make the take-off. Once a wave nearly capsized them, striking its full force on the port wing. But the sturdy ship shook itself free and careened on for another mile or so across the ocean. Finally they left the surface and staggered homeward with a load so heavy that experienced Catalina pilots gasp at the story.
One of the most daring Catalina actions was the prelude to the Battle of Midway. The Catalinas spotted a huge Jap armada heading toward the island and reported its progress hour by hour. When night fell, four Cats, loaded with deadly torpedoes, made an attack by moonlight and scored the first blow against Japanese sea power in that historic engagement.
Outstanding and incredible was the work of a Catalina squadron in the Aleutians when the Japanese made their attack on Kiska. These Catalina pilots are considered supermen even by the most experienced of their colleagues. Aleutian weather is never a picnic.
It is a mixture of rain, fog, snow, hail, and everything except clear weather. The Catalinas kept constant watch over the straggled islands, flying hour after hour, landing in secluded bays to wait for their mother-ship to come and refuel them. They had no fixed base, and few repair facilities. It was a Catalina that first gave warning of the approach of a Japanese invading armada in these waters, including an aircraft carrier and escorting vessels. This Cat was attacked by Zeros and severely damaged. The pilot dropped his bombs and scored a near miss on one of the warships, fought off the Zeros, and managed to return to his base.
From that moment, the Catalinas kept up a constant running fight with the enemy. They dropped torpedoes, depth charges, and even dive bombed the Jap-held harbor of Kiska. Often they flew until their tanks ran dry and then landed on the sea as near as possible to their tender. There was no eight-hour day for these crews. Some of them flew for sixteen hours, fulfilling missions such as strafing Jap landings, bombing supply dumps, and slipping torpedoes into the sides of the Jap supply ships. One pilot flew nineteen hours out of twenty-four on milk-run bombing trips to Kiska.
Another piled up 178 hours of combat in less than three weeks. The pilots called their outfit the "PBY Interceptor Command" and grimly named Dutch Harbor the "PBY Elimination Base." In combat with Jap Zeros and seaplanes, the Catalinas proved their ruggedness. One was hit several times while in combat with two Zeros, one of which the turret gunners shot down. The other continued to attack. Jap shells severed the rudder cables, leaving the Cat pilot only the aileron and elevators for control. He put his machine into a ninety-degree turn with ailerons alone, shook off the Zero, and climbed to the safety of a cloud bank, where he "sat" cruising and waiting for the other Zeros to give up the chase.
Luck was against him. The wings began to ice, and he was forced to go down again. He went into a steep dive, unseen by the Zeros, but when he finally leveled off, the gas was exhausted. He landed on the sea and was found by another Catalina.
Dive bombing in a Catalina was rather a test of physical strength for the pilot and co-pilot. The Catalina captains made a habit of cruising in the overcast toward their objective, and then diving suddenly through a hole in the clouds, at a speed exceeding 300 miles per hour. To get the nose down meant two men pushing and holding down the control stick with all their strength.
To pull out was always an adventure. The Cats weigh something over 27,000 pounds loaded, and 27,000 pounds traveling downward at 300 miles an hour represents a fantastic weight, which you can cajculate for yourself with the assistance of a physics or mathematics expert. But to the Catalina men this desperate proceeding meant another job in the line of duty. Working in unison, the pilot and co-pilot braced their feet against the rudder bars, wrapped their forearms round that hefty control column running the width of the cockpit, and pulled, "while," as one pilot put it, "the plane captain prayed."
The big boats always came out; sometimes they shuddered and staggered, their big wings flapping like those of a seagull. "Wing flutter." A young Catalina pilot laughed. "You haven't seen nothin' till you see those Cat wings wobble. But they never come off. At least mine never did." How the Catalinas hung together is just the secret of these wonderful boats. One Catalina pilot who had been dive bombing in the Pacific told me a "fish" story. At least, it seemed that, but judging from some of the Catalina feats, it may be true.
He and his crew spotted a Jap destroyer. They went down to attack, and scored a near hit. The destroyer was putting up a heavy flak barrage, but the Cat's crew decided to attack again. The big machine circled like a fighter, while the gunners swiped the destroyer 's deck with .50-caliber machine-gun fire. Then the pilot went up and made another dive. As he went in, a Jap shell passed clean through the cabin without exploding and temporarily blinded the pilot. The bombardier let go his bombs, but the pilot could not pull out. The crew in the bulkheads heard a crash. A gaping hole appeared in the port hull near the bilge; then a wicked slapping, crashing noise, and the crewmen were thrown off their feet. It meant only one thing—the Cat had hit the water, and the end.
But it was only the beginning—of the home flight. This Catalina had scraped off the destroyer's radio mast, slicing a hole in its own hull. Then it had hit the water, bounced into the air, and continued flying. Fish story? Well, it is a good "Cat" story, and the man who told me assured me solemnly that it was true.
Air battles in which Cats have downed enemy planes are legion. One Catalina crew shot down four Zeros, damaged a huge Japanese four-engined seaplane, and knocked out a submarine, all in one twelve-hour flying trip. The pilot brought some of his crew back dead, but they had won a series of glorious victories.
Catalinas seem to have been in action on every battlefront. They played a large part in General MacArthur's air offensive against Jap-held territory in the South Pacific. A squadron of Cats flew from Darwin, Australia, to Babo, in Dutch New Guinea, and blasted port facilities and an enemy airfield. They destroyed twentythree aircraft on the ground and started a fire that could be seen eighty miles away. All returned safely, in spite of heavy antiaircraft fire and night fighters, one of which was shot down. Said one of the pilots who was decorated for heroism in this action: "The Catalina deserves the decoration."
When the first Catalinas flew to England to work in R.A.F. Coastal Command, they went to the relief of a very gallant old lady who had been hurriedly put into uniform, although originally destined to carry passengers to the four corners of the earth. This was the R.A.F. Short Sunderland, a huge 2 3-ton, four-engined flying boat powered by four 1000-hp. Bristol Taurus engines, capable of a range of 3000 miles under certain conditions.
The Sunderland is a story in herself. Built like a ship by the firm of Short Brothers of Rochester, Kent, by men who originally built pleasure yachts, her brother is the Short Stirling, and her ancestors a long line of float planes and flying boats.
The Sunderland's family really began in 1923, when Short's began to build flying boats for the R.A.F. The performance of these ships was so universally outstanding that the British airlines, under government supervision, decided to use them for the proposed Empire air route from England to Australia. Horace Short, designer of the Sunderland, had a novel idea for producing his aircraft. He first built a flying mock-up complete to the last detail, then tested it out, making modifications on the mock-up rather than waiting until the full-sized version was completed. In the construction of flying boats, this procedure had many advantages.
You could build a perfect ship in miniature and thus avoid delays in production, which is necessarily lengthy. As a result of tests of the little boat, which I witnessed, the first full-size model came out in perfect shape. Its test flight at Rochester was a sensation.
Imperial Airways ordered five of the big ships immediately, but few of them saw passenger service. One of them, named Clare, made a flight to New York under R.A.F. insignia; others ran on the Empire route to Sidney, via India, while the rest went into service of the Coastal Command as patrol bombers and sea-rescue ships, undertaking a variety of wartime missions, including the allimportant task of maintaining communications between London and her outlying outposts.
In itself, the Sunderland was the basic design for the battleship of the air. At the beginning of the war, it was probably the most heavily armed bomber in action. Its crew of eight or ten, according to the mission at hand, had at least eight guns available for defense.
Four were mounted "Chicago-piano" style in the tail, two in the nose, and the others in turret and slit-holes along the fuselage.
The interior of the Sunderland is vast. There are two decks inside the big hull. Setting off in one, during the early days of this war, I had the impression of riding in a flying ship. The pilot's cockpit resembles the average New York one-room apartment, and the rest of the plane is proportionately roomy. We took off after what seemed a comparatively short run for so big a ship, and flew through bumpy weather as smoothly as if we had been running on invisible rails. Looking down at the sea, and contemplating our escort of Hudsons, I remembered with a quiet thrill that this actually was a flying ship. It had been born in a shipyard and launched like a ship. I walked aft to observe the rear view through the turret. It was a long walk, vibrationless and noiseless. There were ladders leading to the top deck and to the turrets. There were a mass of radio gear, and bunks for the crew. The rear edge of the great rudder seemed to soar upward like a skyscraper.
I made a note at the time of the impression I had of tremendous and unassailable security. It would take more than a single fighter or antiaircraft burst to down this graceful monster, now batting out to sea at some 200 miles per hour, slow as planes go, but strangely satisfying.
I have thought often of my flight in that Sunderland as details come over the wires of the astonishing feats being notched up by these planes. Not for nothing did the German pilots name them the "Flying Porcupines." The war was two years old before the Heinkels and Messerschmitts could register their first victories over these flying boats with their deadly component of guns. The first news of a Sunderland's victory over German fighters was a prelude to the German campaign for Norway. A Coastal Command Sunderland was snooping along the Norwegian coast, when two Heinkel float planes swooped on it. The first burst from the leading Heinkel killed the Sunderland co-pilot. The Sunderland nose gunner got the Heinkel, which curled away to the sea below with smoke pouring from its engines. The second Heinkel dived underneath them, aiming to come up under the wing and shoot up the port engines.
A blast from the Sunderland's rear turret cut short his intentions, and the huge plane continued its patrol. Suddenly out of a cloud formation leaped three Me-109's. There followed one of the most extraordinary battles in Coastal Command records. The Sunderland captain determined to give fight.
He maneuvered his ship into a tight turn and as she was standing on one wing tip, the gunners shot it out with the German fighters. One of the Me's dived headlong at the Sunderland. A burst from Sunderland gunners probably killed the pilot. The machine was coming on at full speed, and the Sunderland's turret gunner ducked, convinced that the German would ram them in its death dive. Luck was with them, however. The Messerschmitt missed by a few feet and continued its screaming passage down to the sea.
The other two Germans then delivered a dive attack. Their bullets ripped into the tough stressed-steel skin of the Sunderland. An incendiary bullet started a fire, which the radio man beat out. The tail gunner gave a shout. By what seemed miraculous shooting, he had winged one of the attackers. A burst from his four guns had clipped the wing right off the Messerschmitt, and the pilot was floating away in his parachute. The other Messerschmitt made for home, and the Sunderland continued its patrol.
After that, German fighters were respectful of the "Flying Porcupine ." Nazi float planes in particular met with disaster in their encounters with Sunderlands. One epic, of which we have little detail, was a battle between a Sunderland and a Focke-Wulf Kurier . The German plane, although much faster than the British ship, came off the worse, and the Sunderland returned to its base only after giving up the battle because of ammunition shortage.
In the Bay of Biscay, where it was searching for U-boats, a Sunderland encountered eight Ju-88 fighter-bombers. Their desperate need for long-range fighters caused the Germans to convert a number of these planes for the specific use of shooting down British communication and sub-strafing planes. The Ju-88's came roaring down on the Sunderland, their front guns spitting fire. After this first attack, the Sunderland's Australian crew were in bad shape.
The rear gunner had been killed, four others were wounded, and the plane was burning in several places. "Tally ho, Digger!" cried the flight sergeant from the top turret. "Give those all we have! Come on, Diggers." It was a battle cry.
Without waiting to look over their wounds, the Australian gunners went to work. Fifteen minutes later, the battle was still raging , but three of the Junkers fighters were floating on the surface of the sea like dying moths. The captain of the Sunderland was wounded. A crew member patched him up, as he sat at the controls.
Interphones had been shot away, an ammunition chute had been damaged, and everywhere were blood and smoke. For ten more minutes, the R.A.F. battleship fought on. In that ten minutes, four more of the Ju's were damaged. One by one they went scuttling into the clouds, with smoke coming from their engines. "If they got back," said a Sunderland gunner later, "I guess the Gremlins were on their side." A few minutes later, the last of the German planes made an attack. He was met by a series of bursts of fire, his own bullets went wide. He turned and flew away.
The Sunderland flew back three hundred miles to Britain, so badly holed that it had to be beached, but as a British aviation magazine put it, "It had been a glorious victory." Victories over subs are all in the Sunderland's line of duty.
They have sunk supply ships with their bombs, strafed enemy E-boats, and attacked submarine tenders under the very noses of German fighters. The huge load capacity of the Sunderland and its ability to land on the sea even in rough weather make it ideal for rescue work. During the evacuation of Norway, hundreds of soldiers and civilians flew to safety in these big boats. In Greece, when Nazi armies were furiously trying to push the British into the sea, a squadron of Sunderlands, some of which were just newly arrived from England, worked day and night taking off valuable lives.
They flew to their landing through antiaircraft fire and attacking fighters. One of these Sunderlands survived a dive bombing by Stukas. The pilot kept his machine snaking over the surface of the water, as the bombs fell, and the gunners blasted away at the Stukas.
Hour by hour, loaded to the gunwales with troops, the big flying ships plied their ferry service back to the North African mainland.
The Sunderland's service in the evacuation of Greece should have been a lesson to the Germans. It demonstrated that a good flying boat skillfully handled can be of inestimable service. In view of the pathetic attempts of the Germans to evacuate their troops from Tunisia, it seems they did not profit by this example.
Sunderland crews live aboard their two-decker ships and are accustomed to twelve or more hours' flying during their patrols.
They escort convoys, hunt subs, and search the sea for survivors of torpedoed ships. One Sunderland belonging to an Australian squadron spotted something bobbing up and down in a choppy sea. The pilot flew down and found an open raft huddled with the survivors of a torpedoed vessel. The men were exhausted. One managed to wave his hand, but the others were flat out. There were twenty-one on the raft. The pilot decided to land, a perilous business on such a rough sea. He brought the machine down safely, however, and turned its nose into the wind, while the crew launched the dinghy.
One by one, the exhausted men were brought aboard. The Sunderland took off, those crew members who could be spared from their posts ministering to the unhappy survivors. Most of them were too weak to speak. Suddenly the co-pilot gave a shout of warning. On the sea beneath was the unmistakable feather of a submarine periscope. A Nazi sea raider was cruising just below the surface.
The Sunderland pilot dived his ship and released four bombs round the trailing feather. They exploded beneath the water, throwing up great plumes of spray. The Sunderland circled, preparing to dive in and attack again. As the nose went down, the U-boat slowly rose to the surface, swaying and pitching. Four more bombs were released, two of them direct hits. Onto the deck poured men from the conning tower, as the shattered sub sank under their feet. Reporting back to his base, the young Australian captain remarked that they had had "a good day." All things considered, the United Nations owe a great deal to the Catalina and the Sunderland. Certainly, the Nazi U-boat commanders hate and fear them.