The Beginning of an Unfortunate Future

Today marks a small event in history that would later become a much larger one. On this day in 1941 the US Navy commissioned the Naval Air Station on Midway Atoll. A little over a year later on June 4 and 6 1942, the famous Battle for Midway was fought between the US Navy and Imperial Japanese Navy. It’s amazing how this island, less then 3 square miles big became such an important spot in the Pacific Ocean.

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While the main battle for Midway took place in the ocean a ways offshore, the island was bombed heavily in order to destroy it’s mixed assortment of planes before a landing force could take the island. The pilots of the US Navy Aircraft Carriers did a tremendous job, as did those that flew off of Midway, beating back the Japanese forces. The SBD Dauntless seen here is one of two original SBD’s flying in the world. The SBD played a critically role against the enemy carriers. This particular plane is part of CAF Dixie Wing in Peachtree Georgia.

While Midway became famous for the battle, today it is famous for it’s diverse wildlife. Under the protection of the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, the 2.4 square mile island and surrounding lagoon was turned into a National Wildlife Refuge with over 590,000 acres protected. The bird species and sea critters are absolutely amazing while also being threatened due to pollution. If you are an aviation enthusiast, history enthusiast list or wildlife enthusiast then this definitely one place to have on your bucket list.

The Plane Vs. the Submarrine

While the majority of the Pearl Harbor attack was done by air, the Japanese did have a large navy outside the Hawaiian islands including submarines. One of the greatest mysteries of the attack was the use of five Type A midget submarines. Each submarine could hold two people and two torpedoes. Four of the five submarines have been accounted for while the fifth is still surrounded by controversy. Some believe that it used inside Pearl Harbor, despite the sub nets, and torpedoed USS Oklahoma and USS West Virginia. The ingenuity and determination show how greatly they wanted to achieve victory.

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While the first and second wave were successful, as well as surprise by the enemy, the third wave was recalled due to the lack of US carriers in Pearl. One of the Japanese objectives outside of destroying the naval fleet of battleships, was to destroy the American Carriers. With carrier locations unknown to the enemy Admiral Nagumo withdrew his fleet for fear of retaliation. Japanese submarines however remained in the facility for days after the raid. On December 10th, submarine I-70 of Subdiv 12 responds to an order from SubRon 1 to pursue possible carrier sightings given from I-6. At 0600 a SBD-2 Dauntless Divebomber from VS-6 of the USS Enterprise finds I-70 and drops a 1,000lb bomb damaging the ship so it couldn’t submerge. Another SBD from VS-6 finds the submarine in the afternoon and bombs the damaged vessel. After his diving run he returns to see four sailors and an oil smear in the water. It was the first Japanese vessel sunk by United States aircraft during WWII and first fleet submarine lost in the Pacific.

From Above and Below

The other day I put up a blog about changing positions and shooting from the tail as well as the nose of the plane. Well today it’s the importance of looking down as well as looking up at the plane. No matter what the subject matter is it’s always important to capture your basic shots as well as those ones that aren’t always seen. Getting low and shooting up with a wide angle lens, like a D4 and a 24-70 or 18-35, is a great way to show the size of the aircraft. These planes are big and showing off that size is important. Also shooting up can exaggerate the curvature of the wings.

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This is not always an option but when it is shooting down is a great way to show off the details of the plane. This SBD has a very unique feature to it that most planes do not have, dive breaks. Each wing is equipped with dive breaks underneath the flaps. They are basically panels with holes in them that come down in when the plane is in a dive slowing the plane down during the bomb run while still allowing the plane to recover from a 45 degree dive. They are an incredibly important feature to these planes that makes them unique.

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Just like when shooting up at a plane, shooting down on top of it makes them look smaller. Keep in mind that the background changes dramatically from looking down to looking up. Depending on how good the skies are or how good the airfield is, can influence your decision on how to shoot. The idea is at the end of the day is to change your perspective from the straight on level shot that is done all the time.

Change your Perspective

I often get asked how I come up with such interesting shots when it comes to my planes. Well it comes down to two things, symmetry and perspective. Now there are a bunch of other little details like light and background but lets just focus on the first two. The reason symmetry and perspective are so important is because every plane has very distinct characteristics that no matter what light or what background they will always be there. Take this replica Zero for instance. This was shot with a D4 and 24-70 at f22. Now if you follow my blog then you know I don’t often give out f stops partially because unless you’re there, they are kind of irrelevant. This time it helps to prove a point.

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The Japanese Zero was one of the fiercest opponents in the early years of WWII. It helped Japan dominate the sky over the Pacific. It’s nimbleness was it’s greatest asset being able to out maneuver any plane for many years. It wasn’t until one crashed in the Aleutians and American engineers were able to rebuild the plane and study it that we discovered how to beat it. Well the fighter had many roles throughout the war two of which were fighting other fighters and the other was providing cover their carriers. Now every Japanese plane had the Rising Sun on the fuselage, also known as a meatball by American flyers. It made them very easily distinguishable. If you look closely at this photo you will see on the right above the wing an SBD Dauntless Divebomber. It’s purpose was to drop bombs on various targets, mainly ships as it was a carrier based plane. The Zero’s job was to shoot those bombers down. On the left side above the wing is an FG-1D Corsair one of the primary fighter in both Marine and Navy groups in the Pacific. These two were natural enemies. Fighters vs Fighter. Now granted both served in various roles, the Corsair being more effective than the Zero in bombing runs but for now we’ll just stick with fighters. Shooting from the tail, with the planes lined up on either side, it was real easy to get a simple and clear story in one photo. The enemy plane going after the bomber, the bomber being protected by it’s top cover fighter, the Zero breaks off and goes after the fighter. How do you come up with these shots? You come up with interesting perspectives to tell the story.

The SBD on Bougainville

There are many important dates in Aviation history, it’s very hard to remember them all. Some have a rippling effect that courses through a series of events while others are only minor footnotes. This one is both. On November 25th, 1943 the first allied plane, a SBD Dauntless Divebomber crash landed on the island of Bougainville during the invasion of the island. On the 1st of November, 1943 allied invasions began at Cape Torokina at the northern end of Empress Augusta Bay. The island was another step in encircling the island fortress of Rabaul which is in the northwestern end of the Solomon Island chain.

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Although the plan never entitled the invasion of Rabaul, it was necessary to neutralize the airdromes and naval bases on the island. Bougainville, which housed six airstrips and 25,000 Japanese troops by the time we invaded, was a not only a necessary step but a long fought battle. Over 100,000 US and Australian troops fought to secure the five airfields at; Buka, Kahili, Ballale, Kara, Bonis and Kieta. The battle for the island lasted until April of 1944 when it was concluded that the Japanese troops could not effect the outcome of the war; however, the troops did not surrender until Japan surrendered on 21st, August of 1945, with the official surrender September 2nd, 1945. By that time nearly 40,000 troops were still encroached in the island, many facing malnutrition.

In the Camera Bag:
Nikon D3, 200-400 VRII, on Lexar UDMA Digital Film

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