Friday, January 13, 2012

1921 Virginia Capes Bombing Tests

Foster and his fellow Shamut shipmates during the operation
One of the more controversial events in history of the U.S. Navy was the bombing tests on old American and German warships off the Virginia Capes in 1921.   With the experiments General Billy Mitchell of the U.S. Army Air Corps set out to prove the superiority of airpower over surface warships (namely battleships), thus a large surface fleet would  no longer be needed in a future war.  Much has been made about the experiments being a fight between the U.S. Navy and Army. In reality, the Navy participated in the experiments just as much, if not more, than the Army.  Read more about the experiments on our command's website.

 While assigned to the minelayer USS Shamut (CM-4), BM3 Robert Foster took several of his own pictures documenting the event.  Shamut served as  the observation platform for Army and Navy inspectors. She also served as a tender to the thirteen seaplanes that were "searching" for the enemy fleet of the German battleship Ostfriesland, light cruiser Franklin, the destroyer G-104, submarine U-117, and USS Iowa (BB-4), which was operating under remote radio control.  Here is some of what Foster witnessed:

German battleship Ostfriesland being hit by a 300-pound bomb
Inspection party boarding USS Iowa (BB-4).  At considerable expense, workers installed an apparatus that allowed the Spanish-American War-era battleship to operated remotely.  This way, pilots would be bombing a moving target. 

Ostfriesland hit by a 300 and a 2000-pound bomb

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