USS Alabama Aerial Bombing by the 1st Provisional Air Brigade on September 23, 1921
"Having agreed to give the Air Service an old battleship for bombing test, the Navy in early September 1921 towed the USS Alabama into position near the USS Indiana, about seven miles southwest of Tangier Island in Chesapeake Bay. The Air Service had asked that the ship be in operating condition so that they could discover what type of attack would put her out of action...
The tests got under way on Friday morning, September 23, 1921. At 0923 two Martin bombers began laying a smokescreen windward of the Alabama. Then came two DH's, each with four 25-pound phosphorous bombs, and afterwards four DH's with tear gas bombs. Shortly after 1300, two Martin Bombers dropped eight 100 - pound phosphorus bombs, scoring six hits. Phosphorus flames and fumes covered the entire ship. General Mitchell then departed from the plan to direct an additional attack by two Martin bombers each carrying fifteen 25-pound phosphorus bombs. The Martins got six hits; the other twenty four bombs 'were well-placed about the battleship.' The next scheduled attack was by two Martins with tear gas shortly after 1600. Four of the sixteen 50-pound bombs hit; the others landed alongside...
The tests yielded useful information and interesting conclusions concerning aerial operations against seacraft. Airplanes could employ a smokescreen as cover for day bombing. Flares could be useful at night to alert friendly aircraft to a target but not for illuminating it for attack. The best conditions for a night assault were when the moon was out behind the target. Aircraft delivered phosphorus and gas bombs could put seacraft out of commission by destroying the crew. Light bombs could destroy the superstructure and upper decks. No battleships in use or contemplated for the near future could withstand the heavy bombs. And finally, the argument that the Air Service was limited in its operation by any condition or possibility had been proven a fallacy - or so Mitchell maintained."
This text was taken from:
Maurer, Maurer. Aviation in the U.S. Army, 1919 - 1939. Office of Air Force History: Washington D. C.. 1987, pgs 122 - 124.
NextThe photographs in this exhibit are part of the Governor's Council of Defense Collection in custody at the Colorado State Archives. We will respond to mail and phone requests but suggest that you conduct any extensive research at our facility whenever possible because of the voluminous nature of the material. We have search, handling, and copy fees. Please contact us in order to find out the charges for your request. Address all inquiries to the Colorado State Archives.
Story of Billy Mitchell's Strategic Bombing Dream
Biography & Photographs of Billy Mitchell
The Mitchell Era
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Last modified June 19, 2003