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Revenge of the Pearl Harbor Battleships


October 25, 1944, 0200 hours. It is the final major day of the Battle of Leyte Gulf. Six America battleships slowly steam back and forth across the mouth of the Surigao Strait. Five are survivors of the Pearl Harbor attack—West Virginia, Pennsylvania, California, Tennessee, and Maryland. Two forces of Japanese battleships, cruisers, and destroyers are steaming north in the strait. The American battleships will “cross their T,” pouring full broadsides into each arriving Japanese ship. The Pearl Harbor battleships are about to have their revenge.

At Pearl Harbor, the “newest” battleship was the West Virginia (BB-48). Built in 1921, she had the advantages of lessons learned in World War II. In addition, she was heavily updated before World War II. After she was built, a moratorium was placed on battleship construction a result of the Washington Naval conference. The U.S. would not begin to build more battleships until the eve of World War II.

West Virginia, 1926. National...

Aerial Bomb Fuzes


When visitors at Pacific Aviation Museum Pearl Harbor look at the Japanese bomb replicas on our attack wall, they sometimes ask about the little propellers on the bombs. Obviously, these are too small to make the bomb change directions. Some even notice that one of the bombs has two propellers—one on its tip and one at the tail end of the bomb’s body. The answer to the first question is that the propellers are attached to the fuzes that detonate the bomb. The answer to the second is a bit more complicated.

Figure 1: Bombs with Propeller Fuzes

Fuzes have two purposes. The obvious one is to cause the bomb to explode. When the bomb makes impact, the fuze has a spike or electrical circuit that detonates the bomb. If the fuze has a spike, that spike is driven into a small detonation charge that sets off the main bomb charge. An electrical fuze uses a spark to set off the detonation charge. Earlier bombs used pyrotechnic detonation—a flame raced down a detonation line into the...

Our Tomcat “Felix 102”


The F-14

From the 1970s through 2006, the Grumman F-14 Tomcat was the defender of the fleet. These huge, fast, swept-wing fighters could take on anything in close-in dog fights and could shoot down enemy aircraft 50 miles away. Toward the end of the Tomcat’s life, F-14s became Bombcats, capable of delivering precision bombs against distant land targets. F-14s starred the movie Top Gun, which also featured co-star Tom Cruise.

Preparing an F-14 Tomcat for launch. (U.S Navy photograph 050222-N-4308O-075, Feb. 22, 2005, by Photographer’s Mate Airman Ryan O'Connor)

Our Tomcat (S/N 163904) "Felix 102"

By the beginning of 2006, there were only two F-14 squadrons left in the Navy. Both were flying combat missions in the Middle East. VF-213 was the “Black Lions.” VF-31 was the “Tomcatters.” The tail insignia of VF-31, created in 1948, was a black Felix the Cat carrying a lit bomb.[1]

Insignia of the VF-31 Tomcatters. (U.S. Navy photograph,...

Aircraft #13 on the Doolittle Raid


This is a firsthand account by the pilot of aircraft #13 on the Doolittle Raid off the Hornet in 1942. Take the time and enjoy a bit of history.

My name is Edgar McElroy. My friends call me "Mac". I was born and raised in Ennis , Texas the youngest of five children, son of Harry and Jennie McElroy. Folks say that I was the quiet one. We lived at 609 North Dallas Street and attended the Presbyterian Church.

My dad had an auto mechanic's shop downtown close to the main fire station. My family was a hard working bunch, and I was expected to work at dad's garage after school and on Saturdays, so I grew up in an atmosphere of machinery, oil and grease. Occasionally I would hear a lone plane fly over, and would run out in the street and strain my eyes against the sun to watch it. Someday, that would be me up there!

I really like cars, and I was always busy on some project, and it wasn't long before I decided to build my very own Model-T out of spare parts. I got an engine from...

Pearl Harbor:  The Bombs of the Second Wave


On December 7, 1941, Japanese torpedoes and bombs devastated Hawaii’s warships and air fields. The “Weapons Wall” at Pacific Aviation Museum has full-size models of three of these weapons—the ones used in the first wave of the attack. The wall also shows the aircraft that carried different types of ordnance during the first wave.

This article goes beyond the information shown on the Weapons Wall, to look at the bombs used in the second wave. The Japanese Kates and Vals of the second wave delivered different types of bombs than they delivered in the first wave—including two types of bombs not used in the first wave. Table 1 summarizes basic data about the torpedoes and four types of bombs used during the attack, and about the aircraft that delivered each weapon during the two waves.

Table 1: Japanese Bombs and Torpedoes at Pearl Harbor

Weapon Weight First Wave Second Wave
Type 91 Model 2 torpedo 838 kg
205 kg...

Sikorsky SH-60B Antisubmarine Warfare ASW Helicopter


The newest addition to Pacific Aviation Museum’s collection is a Navy SH-60B Seahawk helicopter. The Sikorsky Seahawk is a navalized version of the Army’s UH-60 Blackhawk. The Army began using the Blackhawk in 1979. The Navy quickly saw the Blackhawk as a good foundation for replacing its SH-2 Sea Sprite, which was protecting individual ships such as frigates, destroyers, and cruisers, which often have to operate outside of the fleet’s protection umbrella. In effect, the Sea Sprite was a self-contained antisubmarine warfare (ASW) system. The 1960s-vintage Sea Sprite was too small and underpowered to support the Navy’s new LAMPS II avionics system. The Blackhawk was the ideal size for the new system, and most of its development cost had already occurred. The Navy called its Sea Sprite replacement the SH-60B, where the “S” stands for antisubmarine warfare. The Navy began using the Seahawk in 1984.

Although the AH-6B Seahawk is primarily an antisubmarine warfare aircraft, it has...

Where Would the Enterprise Have Moored?


The Pacific Fleet’s three aircraft carriers were fortunately out of port on December 7, 1941. The Saratoga was en route from Bremerton, Washington to San Diego, where she would embark her air wing. The Enterprise and the Lexington were on missions to deliver aircraft to Wake and Midway, respectively. The Lexington had just left on November 5th. The Enterprise had left on November 28 and been scheduled to return on the 6th, but heavy seas delayed her arrival until late in the day on December 7.If the carriers had been in port during the attack, where would they have berthed? Although ships did not always berth at the same location, Commander Lawrence R. Schmeider reported that the biggest ships had “normal” mooring points. For all three carriers, we know these normal mooring points from photographs, and for the Enterprise, we have additional information directly from Schmeider and at least one other source. 

 

As Figure 1 and Figure 2 show, the Lexington and Saratoga...

U.S. Scout/Observation Floatplanes in World War II


OS2U Kingfisher Floatplane

Missions

In World War II, aircraft carriers were not the only ships to launch and recover aircraft. Cruisers and battleships each carried a few small floatplanes. Most were Curtis SOC Seagulls or Vought OS2U Kingfishers. Curtis SO3C Seamews and SC Seahawks also saw some use in the war.

Battleships usually carried four. They used them primarily for observation—watching the fall of shells during surface actions to help direct gunfire.[ii] This gave most of these aircraft an “O” in their official designations. Observation was critical in World War II, especially in the early years before radar was perfected because battleships often had to fire on targets far beyond visual range.

The “S” in their designations meant “scouting.” Cruisers used their floatplanes primarily to locate enemy surface ships and submarines. Battleship and cruiser flotillas often had to sail without aircraft carriers. When they did, cruiser floatplanes were their only eyes....

P-40 Warhawks and Claire Chennault’s Flying Tigers


Arriving Tiger

This summer, FedEx will deliver a big package to Pacific Aviation Museum Pearl Harbor—a World War II P-40E Warhawk. FedEx inherited the P-40 when it purchased Flying Tiger Airlines. As you might expect, the aircraft is painted in the colors of the Flying Tigers. This new arrival will give docents at Pacific Aviation Museum the opportunity to talk about the famous Flying Tigers and the often-overlooked China-Burma-India (CBI) theater.

In preparation for the P-40E’s arrival, this blog gives some background on the Flying Tigers and our new aircraft in particular. At the end of this blog, there are some larger-size pictures of P-40s, the Flying Tigers, and Claire Chennault.

Blood for the Tigers

Pearl Harbor was just the beginning. Just hours after striking Hawaii, Japan decimated MacArthur’s air forces in the Philippines and the British air forces in Malaya. Later that same day, Japan bombed Guam, Wake Island, Singapore, Shanghai, Hong Kong, and several...

“MiG Alley” Korean Conflict exhibit coming soon


See Pacific Aviation Museum Pearl Harbor restoration crew at work on our F-86 & MiG-15 as we prepare our "MiG Alley" Korean Conflict exhibit. New display opens June 25, 2010 in Hangar 79. You can see it on the Aviator's Tour.

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