I got an E-mail from a friend a few days ago asking about the Piper L-4 being launched off the USS Ranger. He had read that L-4s were launched from LST's that were converter to carriers for them.Which of us was right?
Captain Allcorn didn't get very far with his first flight during Operation Torch, but the other two cubs did.
Fighters of the day carried four to six machine guns. Bombers carried a couple of tons of bombs early in the war. But the L-4 Pilot and Radio Operator directed the guns of one battle ship, to an entire task force. When spotting for the Army the could call fire from over 100 + guns at times down on a target.
After their combat trial in North Africa the Army wanted more of the liaison planes as 'eyes in the sky' for future invasions.
The L-4 next became the only plane in history that had an aircraft carrier designed just for it. The Navy needed it's carriers for their own aircraft, so LST's were converted with a plywood deck laid the length of the ship. There were six slanted parking ramps, three on each side, to store planes prior to launch. I believe the plan was to keep four planes lashed down to the rear of the flight deck, figuring they would still have room to take off.
Officers who didn't fly, and weren't flying in the cubs, were sure they could crowed six and still get off OK. The best I can say to that logic is that cubs take care of their people. No one seems to be sure how many LSTs were converted in this manner.
The biggest drawback to the LST carriers is that the L-4s were on a one way trip. The little planes had no arresting gear and the LSTs had no cable system. They could not land back on the LST after launching. In fact, after the last plane was off, the plywood deck was torn apart and pushed overboard in most cases.
Below is a photograph from the National Archives taken aboard one of the converted LSTs, #906, in the harbor of Naples, Italy. It shows the liaison plane crews gathered in front of an L-4. I treasure this photo because the names of the men are listed.
In the Pacific there were places the L-birds had no choice but to return to the ship. My friends, you ain't gonna believe the answer they came up with!
Note: I found these photos on the net. If the owners object to my use of them, drop me an E-mail and I will take them down.