VC-27 flew many kinds of missions. The Avengers flew scouting missions, bombing missions (against ground targets) and torpedo attack missions (against sea targets). The FM-2s flew combat air patrol (CAP) to protect the carrier, air support for the Avengers and the ground troops and would sometimes engage in strafing missions against land and sea targets.
On days when combat operations were not scheduled, the Avengers would generally fly scouting missions. They were equipped with radar and could spot ships from many miles away.
Because of limited space, carrier operations had to proceed in phases - with everyone doing the same thing at the same time.
Arming, Fueling and Briefing Phase.
The typical mission would last several hours. The average flight time for VC-27 missions was around 3.5 hours.
The carrier would turn into the wind. The arresting wires would be readied and a cable barricade would be erected to protect the planes that had already landed. Each plane would land and attempt catch an arresting wire using the tailhook. The Landing Signal Officer (LSO) stood on the port (left) side of deck and helped direct the pilots to a safe landing. If the landing did not look right, the LSO would "wave off" the pilot and they would have to try again. If the pilot was unable to abort, the LSO would sometimes have to dive to the side to avoid being hit. A plane that missed the arresting wires would generally crash into the barricade. On rare occasions, they would bounce over the barricade and land on top of several parked planes.
After landing, the ground crews would detach the plane from the arresting wire, lower the barricade and direct the plane to the front of the ship. The crews would then reset the arresting wire and raise the barricade in time for the next landing.
CHAOS ON THE FLIGHT DECK
The flight deck of an aircraft carrier is a hazardous place to be when planes are taking off or landing. Murphy's Law is constantly lurking in the background, and woe be to the sailor who does not understand this. Storekeeper Jerry Baughman - now of Portland, Indiana, one of the enlisted plane handlers related his experiences: " On the Savo I was put in the gas crew. We had to start putting gas in planes when the first plane landed and continue until the last plane landed ... day in and day out it was probably more dangerous than the Japs. While filling the planes with gas we had to watch every plane that landed and if they missed the wires and the barrier they could be on top of the plane we were refueling and that happened several times. All you could do was jump down from the wing and I felt that being as close to the landing gear as I could be was the safest place. Lucky for me none of the planes that crashed forward of the barrier ever caught fire. I had many close calls with the gas crew ... then was transferred to the plane handling gang. That was no picnic either. The engines on all the planes were started on command at the same time. The plane handlers, one on each side of the plane, had to remove the tie down lines and chocks and go with the plane to the take-off point. After the plane took off we had to crawl on the deck to reach another plane and remember that the propellers were going at the same time. If you felt yourself being blown a little there were finger fittings you could try to get hold of to keep from being blown into a propeller behind you ... "
Aviation Ordnance Mate 1st class Tobe Turpen (Lt. Goly Henry's gunner), now of Albuquerque, New Mexico, reminisces: " I wonder how many times [Lt.(jg) Bill] Diffee [Landing Signal Officer on the Savo Island] had to bail out into his emergency net. God, how naive we were. I never gave a single thought that we might crash on landing. The one time we did miss the cable and tore up several parked planes, we just crawled out and went about our business. I don't even remember discussing the happening with any of our aircrewmen. What a great attitude to have. I guess it comes with being young and feeling indestructible. "
Lieutenant(jg) Forrest F. Glasgow, now of Nashville, Tennessee, was the Aviation Ordnance Officer aboard the Savo Island and a member of ship's company. He relates some of the other chaos that was experienced: "One incident involved an FM-2fighter loaded with a 250pound bomb under each wing. The pilot ... was just moving into take off position after the plane before him had just taken off ... one of my ordnance men came running over [to me] and hollered above the engine noise 'Mr Glasgow is the propeller on the bomb supposed to be spinning?' I should quickly explain that bombs are set off by fuses that are armed by a spinning propeller as the bomb falls through the air. Normally this propeller cannot spin because there is a wire though it that is pulled and stays with the plane when the bomb is dropped. Due to an oversight this wire had not been properly installed. I ran out and looked Sure enough the fuse was in the fully armed position. You don't really stop to think in these cases. I reached in and unscrewed the fuse and threw it over the side. I don't think the Captain of the ship ever knew, thank goodness because he would have wanted somebody's hide.
Glasgow continued: [Another] time a TBM landed and opened its bomb bay doors which was standard practice. A bomb dropped out and rolled across the deck. It had not released when it was supposed to but had dropped out of the rack later after the pilot had closed the bomb bay doors. I'm glad the fuse wasn't armed. [One time] one of the fighter pilots forgot to turn off his gun switches before he landed and squeezed off several rounds of 50 caliber almost aimed at the bridge.
Not all accidents happened on the flight deck. Glasgow continues: On that hectic 25 October morning my guys were hoisting bombs out of the bomb storage compartment below and let a 500 pound semi armor piercing bomb slip out of its shackle and drop from the hangar deck back to the deck below ... You can be sure the captain never heard about that one either."
While the ground crews were getting ready for the next mission, the staff would debrief the crews. The staff would obtain a summary of the mission and information about enemy defenses.
If the crews had to fly another mission, they would take advantage of this time to grab a bite to eat and to use the head. On some days, the crews flew back-to-back missions from sunrise to sunset.