Well, the previous post about the changing role of the
carrier certainly revealed the paradigms and how difficult it is to change
proponents will fight tooth and nail to hang on to their traditional role.
Let’s follow up with an actual historical example of the carrier as an escort for other strike assets. WWII offers an illustrative example of the concept of the carrier as escort in the form of Operation Hailstone which was the US attack on the Japanese base of Truk. An excellent description of the operation is available at the Naval History and Heritage Command website and I leave it to the reader to visit the site for an in-depth description of the operation.
To briefly summarize, the attack on Truk occurred in mid-February 1944. The US attacking fleet consisted of five fleet carriers, four light carriers, six fast battleships, ten cruisers, 28 destroyers and more than 500 aircraft. Although the Japanese main fleet had fled from Truk just days prior to the attack, the Japanese defenders still had 300-400 aircraft operating from five airfields on the island which constituted a major threat to any attacking surface force.
|Attack on Truk|
Though not explicitly intended as such, the operation illustrates the use of the carrier to escort a surface strike force and clear the way for it to operate by establishing local air superiority.
The opening action of the strike on Truk involved a US carrier fighter sweep of 72 aircraft launched during the pre-dawn hours from 90 nautical miles northeast of the island. The sweep, combined with a subsequent steady stream of bombing and strafing attacks (does any of this sound vaguely like a story you just read?) over the course of the day eliminated the Japanese aircraft and airfields as a threat.
With the Japanese aerial threat eliminated, Admiral Spruance led a surface group of battleships, cruisers, and destroyers on an extended bombardment cruise and surface sweep around the island.
Vice Admiral Spruance led an “around-the-atoll cruise” (TG 50.9) on 17 February to catch leakers, bombarding shore installations as it went. Consisting of the new battleships New Jersey and Iowa, the heavy cruisers Minneapolis (CA-36) and New Orleans (CA-32) (all survivors of the Tassafaronga debacle in November 1942), and four destroyers (covered by combat air patrol from the light carrier Cowpens), TG 50.9 caught the light cruiser Katori. That ship, the auxiliary cruiser Akagi Maru, two destroyers Maikaze and Nowaki), and a minesweeping trawler Shonan Maru No. 15 had left Truk before the attack but had not gotten far enough away. (1)
Though not explicitly the operational intent, the carriers cleared the way for the battleships and cruisers to conduct extended strikes without fear of Japanese air attacks. By establishing local air superiority, the carrier aircraft were able to cover the battleship’s movements and strikes, provide a combat air patrol (CAP) for the surface group, and cover the group’s eventual withdrawal. This illustrates the concept of carriers escorting the striking power of the battleships, though, again, this was not the operational intent. Still, it offers a concise, albeit unintentional, example of the concept.
(1)Naval History and Heritage Command website, “H-026-3: Operation Hailstone—Carrier Raid on Truk Island, 17–18 February 1944 ”,