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Re: Little Giants discusses the air to ground development
Napalm (the WWII version) was essentially a mixture of gasoline, fuel oil, and two powdered addatives which gellied the mix. That gellied mix then clung to what it was spilled onto, and if ignited, clung to it while burning. "Applied heat"...it didn't just explode in a fireball, it then stuck and burned and burned.
Other ordnance would just explode (and shower shrapnel.) Fires started were then "incidental." Ordinary gasoline also "burns off." The resulting fire is more "temporary"...less time to heat surroundings up to flash point temps, if you can shut off the source.
Given this, I can see why gasoline would be a "necessary evil" to deal with aboard ships of the time, but napalm (which was also a brand new substance--only just invented in 1942--and not widely known about/understood by "line officers") might not be so welcome.
(The story I read of Tinian, a USN officer showed up at the planning staff meetings with a sample packet of the powder, and a short training film showing its effects. The staff was wowed, and ordered a great deal of powder from the supply chain, which was delivered to the USAAF P-47 squadrons. However, the first batches mixed used both captured supplies of Japanese gasoline, and a bad mixing formula. The results were then found to be far less "spectacular" than the film had shown, and staff and the pilots were not impressed. Somebody thought to stick with it enough to refine future batches, which then finally delivered the desired results.)
If I remember correctly napalm tanks were mixed but filled with gasoline before takeoff. I can not say they were carrier aircraft but the logic escapes me of no napalm aboard ship especially since bombs and rockets were always ready to explode once being manhandled outside the magazine. Also consider that the carrier itself was a floating fuel tank.
What hampered ground support was lack of ground support ordinance (even late in the war) coordinating communications and pilot marksmanship.
FM-2s were used as fighter bombers though not effectively until rockets were introduced.
Quote: "direct sinking was always the aim, though fire may well have been a better weapon than 500 lb impact bombs ."
Well put. US Navy carrier strike aircraft of the period were dive bombers and torpedo bombers, suited to such direct sinking. I have found that napalm was dropped by USAAF P-47 fighters at Tinian, and by USMC F4U Corsairs at Peleliu. I have read it was used on Iwo Jima and Okinawa, but did not find info on what delivered it. The USAAF B-29s then used it in their firebombings of Tokyo and other cities. It was considered an "area" weapon.
The point would be that it seems to have been used tactically by fighter-bomber type aircraft, and it looks also like land-based fighter-bomber type aircraft, in support of James' statement of not wanting it aboard in mixed form. Carrier based Corsairs of the time were night fighters, and the Hellcat was similarly meant as an air-to-air platform. The dive and torpedo bombers were then meant for "direct sinking."
So, while indeed an interesting thought, I don't think it fit "operationally" with any US Navy thinking or equipment of the time.
NAPALM AS AN ANTI SHIP WEAPON IS INTERESTING especially considering the effect fire has had on ships in war and peace, from Midway to the Falklands, and since, up to last week!
it is possible it was used by TAFFY2 at Leyte if already loaded but i have never seen any reference to its deliberate use, or to any damage caused! direct sinking was always the aim, though fire may well have been a better weapon than 500 lb impact bombs .
The book Little Giants explains development and its first uses. CV aircraft may have made initial massive strikes but ground support and anti-submarine warfare became the responsibility of the CVEs this in addition to flying CAPs and fighter sweeps. Responsibility of protecting the CVEs then fell upon the CVs if they remained. Think Saipan and Leyte.
I have never read of napalm being used in an anti-ship role; it was dropped by USN/USMC aircraft in an anti-personnel role quite frequently, including against shore based AA emplacements.
I am uncertain about its deployment from CVs, but I can't imagine it being used on a CV strike due to the inherent dangers associated with a bad launch. Given the losses of 1942, mostly due to failure of damage control doctrine (learned the very hard way), I would think BuShips would vehemently oppose its storage (in mixed form) on a CV.
Does anyone know if napalm was used by the USN in the AA suppression role in 1944-45? Given that it was available in the Pacific, I would have thought it would have been ideal for targets such as the Yamato.
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