In October of 1944, Flying magazine published its annual naval-aviation edition. In his introduction to the issue, Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Air Artemus L. Gates acknowledged, in a roundabout way, the accomplishments of America’s submarine force. “When I wrote a preface to last year’s Naval aviation issue, Japan still extended her sway over the greater part of the western Pacific. …[I]nside this vast area her shipping and commerce were, save for the activities of our submarines, virtually unchallenged.” But, Gates assured his readers, this year the entire Navy—not just the two percent of it that prowled beneath the sea—was bigger and better; in the last ten months, “we have turned the corner and caught first sight of distant victory.”
But despite major improvements in aviation, the flyers themselves understood that it was still the subs and small surface craft that often got them home when things got bad. In an extensive article entitled “Life on a Carrier,” the author took his readers through the preparation that went into a major air assault. Contingency plans were made for aircraft that could not, typically due to enemy-inflicted damage, make it back to the ship. “The rescue facilities for a large-scale operation are such that the chances of a man who hits the sea are extremely good,” he wrote. “The fine work of float planes, flying boats, surface vessels and submarines in rescue operations is a great morale factor in Naval Aviation. It has saved hundreds of our best-trained fighters.” One of those fighters expressed the faith he and his fellow airmen had in their rescuers: “ ‘It’s a mighty good feeling to know that even if you were shot down in Tokyo harbor the Navy would be in to get you,’ he said. It reflects the way all of them feel about the rescue services provided.”
Note: The photo below shows rescued airmen aboard USS TIGRONE (SS-419), summer 1945.