The Wreck of the Aircraft Carrier USS Macon



The USS Macon was an aircraft carrier that sank stern-down off the coast of Point Sur California during a violent storm in 1935. There were surprisingly few casualties, and those she sustained were due to human error. One jumped to his death, another returned to the sinking wreck to retrieve his personal belongings. All other crew members survived.

The Macon was not an attack vessel. Its purpose was to provide long-range surveillance of the Pre-WWII Japanese navy, and it sunk because this aircraft carrier was not designed to float on water. Some of her aircraft had no landing gear either, because the ship had no landing deck.


Puzzle this one out for yourselves before you click.
[Explanation, images and source links below the break.]

As early as 1916 the Navy had begun designing lighter-than-air (LTA) rigid airships, and by 1926 the focus had shifted to airships that could support aerial scouting missions. The first flying aircraft carrier, USS Akron (ZRS-4), was commissioned in 1931 – and after several incidents in two years, the airship crashed and sank off the coast of New Jersey in 1933, killing 73 of 76 men onboard, including Rear Adm. William A. Moffett, the first chief of the Navy’s Bureau of Aeronautics and the chief proponent of bringing LTA aircraft to the fleet.

Macon was commissioned a month and a half after the Akron crash. The airship was commanded by one of the only Akron survivors, Lt. Cmdr. Herbert Wiley, and was based in California. The second-in-class dirigible had a slightly longer service life. The airship stayed mission-ready and participated in many fleet exercises in its two years.

Macon demonstrated its concept of operations, launching and recovering as many as five single-seat Curtiss F9C Sparrowhawk biplanes via a “trapeze” that the crew used to recover the planes. The planes often had their landing gear removed while operating from the airship, leaving little room for error for the pilots.

[Story here. Images from here. Eyewitness account here.]

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