This photo was sent from John Coon, who was an inboard loader
of the right barrel. Smile, John!
|The "three inch fiftys" were the primary air defense guns for the Newport
News. One of the lessons we learned from WWII was that the 20mm and 40mm ordinance
was not very effective against aircraft, so the Salem Class cruisers were the first to
fully implement this size AA weapon. With two guns per mount, and the mounts working
in pairs from the MK56 Gunfire Control Systems (of which we had 4), we could throw out a
considerable amount of high explosive VT (proximity fused) frangmentation rounds.
The rounds did not have to actually hit the aircraft: The VT fuses would
trigger when the round was "close enough", sending high velocity shards in all
There's an interesting sidebar here: We carried smaller, radio-controlled drone aircraft which were launched using a JATO unit from the fantail. For AA gunnery practice, we shot a "VT Non-Frag" ammo which exploded with a puff of smoke when a "hit" was made. The drones were supposed to shut down and deploy a parachute at the end of practice, to be fished out of the water, cleaned up, and flowned again.
The Drone Crew berthed in the Fox Division compartment, and sometime in 1960 or 61, our older drones (made by Radioplane) gave way to a bigger, faster, and more powerful drone made by Beechcraft. It was a lot like a reduced-size Beechcraft Bonanza, with a V-shaped tail. The Drone crew was bragging, "You guys will never be able to hit these".
First gunnery practice, they launched one of the new hot Beechcrafts and few it out a ways before turning it inbound. The port side opened up, and within seconds we saw the drone break in half and fall into the sea... $35,000 (a considerable sum in those days)... shot to hell.
There was a huge stink, and a mandatory ammo inventory. We were accused of slipping in a frag round instead of a non-frag. However, the count turned up all accounted for, and it was concluded that a non-frag's VT fuse had malfunctioned. Seems the round hit the drone directly in the fuselage just aft of the wing, and then decided to explode inside the aircraft. Even the modest charge that made the smoke puff was enough the blow it out of the sky.
"You'll never hit these......" Yeah, right.
This section is underdevelopment, but we
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