AJ-1 NB/7 aboard USS Coral Sea (CVB-43)

The picture that appears below has been downloaded from the USS Coral Sea site at  http://www.usscoralsea.net/pages/aircraft.html. It was presented there as a photo of the type of airplane that VC-5 had in Detachment 31 aboard the ship during the the ship's 7th Mediterranean cruise of 7 July 1954 to 20 December 1954. The site does say that VC-5 was flying AJ-2s, and that is correct. I was there and a member of VC-5 Det 31. The problem is that the picture is of an AJ-1, and not of an AJ-2. Therefore, it was not taken on that cruise.

NB/7 aboard Coral Sea
For a larger version, right click on the picture and select "view image."

Now the question is, "Exactly when was the picture taken?" One has to rule out the 9th Mediterranean cruise of the USS Coral Sea from 13 August 1956 to 11 February 1957 when VAH-5 was aboard with AJ-1s, because by that time they were flying AJ-1s with the retrofitted tail (no dihedral). Because it is such a handsome photo and almost certainly an official Navy photo, my first thought was that it might be to record either the first carrier launch of the AJ-1 on 21 April 1950 or the first complete carrier qualifications with the AJ-1 on 31 August 1950, both of which were accomplished on the USS Coral Sea. However, a careful comparison of this picture and the one on page 73 of Steve Ginter's book of the carrier quals on 31 August 1950 shows some differences. Besides the size of the side number on the nose being much larger in this picture than the size had been in October 1950, there are several minor differences in the island superstructure, most notably in the top of the stack, vulture's row, and one of the radars. These differences may be explained by the fact that the USS Coral Sea underwent an overhaul at the Norfolk Naval Shipyard between 10 October 1951 and 19 February 1952.

My conclusion is that this photo was taken after February 1952 and before approximately mid-summer 1953, at which time VC-5 started to get AJ-2s. The photo almost certainly was not taken during any of the USS Coral Sea's Med cruises, but was more likely taken while the ship was operating off the Atlantic coast of the US.

At the time that I think the picture was taken the USS Coral Sea had not yet had its designation changed from CVB to CVA. (Hey, wait a minute! Wasn't the change of designation made at the time the ship came out of overhaul on 19 February 1952? I have some further checking to do.) Thus my use of CVB-43 in the title of this page.


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