Ask a World War II Destroyer Escort Sailor what went on in CIC or what those CIC guys did and 95 out of 100 will tell you they don’t know. They don’t know because the Navy discouraged talk about CIC except amongst those who had a real need to know. Here is some insight into what they did - complete with a little history about how CIC evolved during World War II.
Radar was developed in the late 1930's, by the British, about the same time the Destroyer Escort was planned in the United States.
In 1937 the first U S Navy radar set was installed in the Destroyer U. S. S. Leary followed in December 1938 by a set installed in the Battleship U. S. S. New York. Rumor - unconfirmed - says the U. S. S. Bangust (DE 739) SA Radar was a hand-me-down from the Battleship U. S. S. Washington.
In 1939 a design for the Destroyer Escort was approved, but, lacking urgency it was shelved until a request for escorts from the British brought it back to life. Serious construction began, for the British, in early 1941 and was greatly accelerated after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor 7 December 1941.
Meanwhile, the U.S. Navy was learning a lot about what could be done with Radar. RADAR is an acronym for RAdio Detection And Ranging. It could not only detect aircraft and ships but also could provide the precise location of land mass thus making navigation in fog or darkness much safer. Initially, radar information was seen as a “blip” or ‘pip” on an oscilloscope (known as an “A” scope) which had to be manually “peaked” then measured and plotted on a chart or polar coordinate graph in order for the user to “see” the object relative to the ship in which the radar set was installed. Bearing to the pip was determined by moving the antenna back & forth (peaking) to maximize the pip. Range was measured as a function of the speed of radio waves. (The time, converted to distance, that it takes the radio wave to reach & return (echo) from the target) More and more use became apparent as radar continued in development. What started as a single device yielding only Range & Bearing information, now was being coordinated with ancillary equipment that could yield the target course and speed, eventually even altitude. As development continued it became possible to electronically challenge the target, with IFF (Identity Friend or Foe), thereby distinguishing friend from foe while it was still at some distance from the ship. Then we learned that radar frequencies that worked best to locate ships and other surface targets were not necessarily the best for locating aircraft, so, two radar sets using different frequencies and antennas made sense.
It was apparent that radar could be used as a single stand alone tool but its value could be greatly enhanced if used as the nucleus of a system for navigation, station keeping, fire control, target identification and numerous other ship handling and warfighting tasks. The question of where to install this system was fairly simple on a large aircraft carrier or battleship but a real challenge in the limited space on a destroyer or destroyer escort. The next major development in Radar was the PPI Scope (Plan Position Indicator) which allowed the viewer to “see” the area surrounding the ship as if he was looking down from a point directly above the radar set. Plotting (which was necessary with the “A” scope to visualize the target or the land mass) was no longer a critical need for navigation because the PPI Scope electronically presents a continuously updated overhead view of a circular area with the Radar set at the center. A control on the PPI image allowed the circular area to display a 5 mile, 10 mile, or 20 mile radius.
On destroyers & destroyer escorts the chartroom became the home for this new system and was renamed COMBAT INFORMATION CENTER (CIC). As an example of how fast this new system was developing, note that almost all cutaway (sectional) drawings of WWII DD’s & DE’s still label the space “Chartroom”. The Quartermasters, whose domain the Chartroom had been, had no objection because radar & especially the PPI Scope made their work much easier. The Navy now had to figure what went where in the CIC space (formerly the chartroom) in order to achieve optimum layout of components in new ships.
When construction began on the U S S Bangust the naval architects had drawn plans for CIC layout based on little knowledge because radar was so new, but also because even less knowledge of it’s use in combat existed. However, ships already in the forward area that had radar retrofitted were now engaged with the enemy but having trouble integrating this ”new fangled radar thing” into their fighting ability. Consequently reports coming back from the forward area suggested the need for better overall integration of radar into each ship’s warfighting capability.
Thus was born the CIC school at Camp Catlin, Oahu, Territory of Hawaii where the curriculum changed almost daily based on knowledge gleaned from each combat experienced officer returning from the forward area. Meanwhile back on the mainland where the USS Bangust was building, and still weeks away from shakedown, the X Division (Radar, Sonar & CIC) Officer, Lt. Robert Zuercher, received orders to report to Camp Catlin, Territory of Hawaii for Radar/CIC school. Apparently Lt. Zuercher and the USS Bangust Commanding Officer, Lt. Cmdr. Charles F MacNish, stayed in very close touch during this time. When the U S S Bangust arrived in Hawaii it was boarded by Lt. Zuercher and navy yard workers who modified CIC (which had only been completed three months before) to conform with lessons learned at Camp Catlin. Bangust left Hawaii, headed for the forward area, six days after arrival with a different CIC layout including a new access door between the Pilot house and CIC. Actually the finishing touch was applied by ship’s company in the first day or two out of Hawaii bound for Funafuti in the Ellice Island Group (Now the Nation of Tuvalu). On the last day at the Navy Yard Pearl Harbor a navy photographer from BuShips came aboard and took many pictures of the new Bangust CIC layout which “was to serve as a model for future DE’s”.
In the early days of the war the people running CIC were in a ”learn as you go” mode and nothing was to interfere with the learning process. Try one thing and if that doesn’t work try something else and keep trying until you find something that does. Then maximize it’s use, accuracy and reliability. They were learning how to make the best use of a marvelous new tool. Those who were actually standing watches in CIC and involved in the learning process were told not to talk about it. The early radars, much like early television, required continuous attention by the operator. Touch one knob the wrong way and everything had to be realigned or recalibrated. Early radar was a great tool when operating properly but also was so finicky that it took a skilled experienced operator to determine that it was operating properly.
CIC did not permit visitors - stay out if you don’t work here - was the word. Radar was so secret that no officer on the Bangust was allowed to do more than look over the qualified enlisted operators shoulder. For an officer to even reach for a control knob brought a terse “hands off” order from the enlisted man to the officer. An order backed to the hilt by the commanding officer of the Bangust.
CIC in the USS Bangust (DE 739) provided the electronic visualizaton necessary to “see” in the dark, in fog and underwater. Here, information from the radars and sonar was plotted or otherwise visually presented to provide a clear highly comprehensive real time continuously updated view of the area surrounding the ship and everything in that area.. The Sonar Control Room (Sound shack) was physically located one deck above and one compartment forward of CIC but considered a part of CIC. The actual sonar transmitter/receiver was located on the ships keel in a retractable housing.
Equipment in CIC included an Air Search Radar (SA), A Surface Search Radar (SL), An Air Plotting Board, A Surface Plot, A Dead Reckoning Tracer (DRT), A Sonar Control Console*, A Chemical Recorder*, A Tactical Voice Radio (TBS) , an IFF Transponder and a Maneuvering Board plus clocks, a gyro compass repeater and various telephone circuits allowing communication with any part of the ship. Both Radars and the TBS Voice Radio (known to most sailors as Talk Between Ships) were line-of-sight and theoretically range was no greater than a human could see on a clear day. Actual range was “to the horizon” plus the distance to any object beyond the horizon which protruded above a level plane extended beyond the horizon. Sonar capability allowed passive listening (hydrophone) or active echo ranging known as ASDIC. SONAR is an acronym for SOund Navigation And Ranging. ASDIC range was considered to be 4,000 yards but varied greatly dependent on depth, temperature, layering and many other factors. A good Sonar operator was as much artist as scientist. *Denotes equipment physically located away from the CIC compartment
During wartime cruising, (Condition III), CIC was manned by eight enlisted men and, occasionally, one Junior Officer of the Deck (JOOD). The need for intense concentration while operating CIC equipment limited operator time to a maximum of 30 consecutive minutes on each piece of CIC equipment. This need led to a structured form of “musical chairs” wherein the operator positions and order of rotation were as listed here.
A Chemical Recorder/Sound Stack standby. 30 minute period of low ear stress B Sound Stack. 30 minute period of intense ear strain C TBS Monitor. 30 minute period of low stress except @ night orders time D Surface Search Radar. 30 minute period of intense eye strain. E DRT/Surface Plot. Low stress unless tracking a “skunk” (surface contact) F Air Search Radar. 30 minute period of very high eye strain G Air Plot. Low stress unless tracking a “bogie” (air contact) H Roving/Standby. Low stress unless temporarily relieving another position.
This rotation order provided a relatively low eye or ear relief period every 30 minutes and required no more than one 30 min period of intense concentration on the same piece of equipment in any normal 4 hour watch.
Lighting in CIC was always at a low level in order to enhance visibility of the radar scopes and backlit plotting boards. Curtains, hung from the overhead, were used during daylight hours to block outside light as hatches & doors into CIC were opened for passage. Quiet was maintained except for coordinate plotting and radio transmissions. The JOOD, during wartime cruising, divided his time between CIC and the Flying Bridge (one deck above CIC) where his time was spent on-the-job-training for future duty as OOD from the OOD (Officer of the Deck) on watch. At General Quarters (maximum readiness to fight) the CIC crew was augmented by 1 or 2 more enlisted men, the X Division Officer and the ship’s Executive Officer or Commanding Officer. Most Destroyer Escort Skippers chose the flying bridge from where most action was visible as their battle station. A few chose CIC as their battle station from where things were electronically visualized.
CIC in a Destroyer Escort totals 146 or 152 square feet (prox 9'-4" X 15'-6") depending on whether the door into the pilot house has been relocated. The relocation adds 6 square feet to CIC and makes a perfect location for the TBS monitor desk in CIC. It also makes access to the Fathometer easier.
Was CIC crowded? - you figure! - 2 “desk size” Radars + A 3 ft x 3 ft plotting board + A 3.5 ft x 3.5 ft DRT + A smaller plotting board + two radios + numerous clocks, telephones, gyro repeaters and 6* men during cruising (add 3 more men at General Quarters) *2 men of the 8 man CIC crew were in the Sonar Shack
So what were they doing in CIC all those months we were in the Pacific?
The ships that kept men and materiel moving from the United States mainland to the forward area were absolutely essential but generally slow & lightly armed auxiliaries . The escorts job, whether Destroyers (DD’s) or Destroyer Escorts (DE’s), was to protect these auxiliaries and ensure their timely arrival where needed. The primary danger was from submarines and, originally, to a lesser extent, air attack. This changed with the advent of the Kamikaze in late 1944. Primary protection was provided by keeping the auxiliaries, the main body, in a tight formation with the escorts positioned to provide a “wall” between the main body and any potential threat. This usually meant the escorts deployed in an inverted vee formation ahead of and along both sides of the main body.
An exception to the inverted vee formation was in the event of an air attack in which case the escorts increased speed to encircle the main body much like we used to see when the indians circled the pioneers wagons in the old western movies. This maneuver brought more guns to bear on the attacking aircraft without having to shoot over the main body.( in official navy language - “to improve the field of fire”) but required very close coordination with CIC. This tight main body formation with the escorts in an inverted vee formation ahead and alongside seems like a fairly easy task. Not so!, because another method that helped to foil attacks was the Zig-Zag plan. If the enemy submarine captain can determine the true course & speed of his target he has only to solve a simple geometric problem to have his torpedo arrive at a point at the same time as the target. Zig-Zagging greatly complicates the torpedo problem because he cannot be sure what course and speed the convoy will be on when his torpedo arrives where he figured the target should be. Submerged submarines, in WWII, did not have the speed to attack from abaft the beam of the main body of the convoy.
Zig-Zagging amounts to the main body simultaneously steering predetermined courses for various lengths of time which will prevent a submarine captain from easily determining the true course of the convoy. Changes in course were made at specific intervals on the clock thus eliminating any visual or electronic signal which might alert the submarine captain to an impending change. Each convoy has one ship as a Guide-on. That ship is responsible for precise execution of the zig-zag plan and all other ships in the main body must also execute precisely the same zig-zag maneuver to insure maintaining the formation. Zig-Zag plans require precise seamanship otherwise you end up with a hodge-podge melee of ships usually resulting in something best described as a chinese fire drill. The Guide-on was generally one of the foremost ships in the main body. Several standard Zig-Zag plans were available for use and they usually were changed daily or as needed. Plans were designed based upon the time required to travel between two points. (e.g., A plan using many changes would take longer to advance from one point to another than a plan with fewer changes would take to advance between the same two points)
CIC in the escorts plus basic radar in most, but not all of the auxiliaries, made the zig-zagging convoy much safer both from the enemy and potential collisions between ships in the convoy. Every time a course change is made the main body formation gets a little ragged because of different handling characteristics of the various ships and it takes a few minutes to titivate. The further the ship is from the Guide-on the more complex its maneuver must be to maintain the convoy formation. The escorts are the most effected because they not only have to come to the new course but also must retain their position in the “wall” between the main body and a potential enemy as they move to their new position. Repositioning of the escorts to maintain the same relative location in the screen, and therefore the “wall” between the main body and a potential attack, required course & speed changes at every zig or zag. These changes were best calculated by vector analysis using a polar coordinate maneuvering board and that job almost always fell to CIC. Once the maneuvering board solution was relayed from CIC to the bridge for course & speed changes it fell to CIC to monitor progress of the changes in the formation as viewed on the PPI scope. It is easy to see if all ships are in the proper position simply by looking at the PPI scope. Prior to radar that would have been nearly impossible. Toward the end of the war newer DE’s & DD’s were equipped with PPI repeater scopes on the bridge which reduced CIC’s workload.
New escorts were integrated into the Pacific Fleet by assigning gradually more complex tasks. The process was very much like a relay race wherein the newest inexperienced escorts would provide the first leg protection to a convoy from, say, the Mainland to Hawaii. In Hawaii the main body would be assigned to experienced escorts who would take the second leg to, say Funafuti. In Funafuti the main body would continue, with escorts having even more experience protecting the third leg to, say Tarawa. This system provided the most experienced escorts in the forward area while allowing newer escorts to gain experience in progressively more dangerous areas. It was rare to see an escort headed East except to protect empty cargo ships returning to reload and even more unusual to see an escort go all the way to the U. S. Mainland. There simply were not enough escorts. Toward the end of the war it was common for escorts to take empties as far as the 180th meridian then turn them loose on their own and head back west for another assignment. This changed soon after VE Day as the experienced Atlantic escorts began to arrive in the Pacific.
By late 1944 and in 1945, CIC and the use of Radar had become common throughout the U. S. Fleet. Almost all ships in the forward area were equipped with both air and surface search radar - many had dedicated fire control radar. The exceptions were a few merchantman supply vessels who were well protected in the main body of convoy formations.
The size of convoys grew also, to the degree that some might be ten miles wide and include 150 ships. Thirty or forty of these could be destroyers and destroyer escorts in the form of a full circle screen around the main body of capital ships (carriers, battleships, cruisers). Trailing this main body (perhaps by one day) was a replenishment group; oil tankers (AO’s), small “jeep” aircraft replenishment carriers, ammunition ships (AE’s), supply ships (AK’s), a cruiser or two, and, if an invasion was planned, troop transports (AK’s), together with its own screen of destroyers & destroyer escorts. CIC played an important role in every operation and some operations might not have been possible without CIC.
When the Capital Ship group and Replenishment group were in close proximity the air search and warning duty fell to the Battleships and Carriers who had the newest most powerful and precise air search Radar. Warning from surface attacks, other than submarine, was provided by “outrider” pickets (usually faster destroyers) stationed from 20 to 30 miles ahead of the replenishment operation. Anti-submarine protection was always provided by the formation screens of DD”s & DE’s. CIC duties, on the replenishment screen escorts during actual replenishment operations were largely station keeping and mine hunting with the surface search radar while searching for submarines with sonar. When the replenishment operation was complete the capital ships would depart for the area to be bombarded and the replenishment group would retire either nearby to await the next resupply operation or escort empties to a rear area and exchange them for full ships arriving from the U.S. and return with them to await the next replenishment operation. The exception to this was when an invasion was planned in which case the troop transports and a few escorts would depart with the capital ship group after replenishment.
The closer we got to Japan the more mine hunting and destruction became a problem. Mines could sometimes be located by surface search radar when the sea surface was relatively calm but weather uncertainty generally mandated extra human lookouts especially during actual replenishment operation. On more than one occasion fuel hoses or lines had to be axed and ships instantly separated to avoid mines in the direct path of a ship. Mines were generally destroyed by 20mm cannon when a clear shot could be had and rifle or sub-machinegun fire if another ship was in the line of fire. Occasionally, we just held our breath and watched the mine when it was spotted too late to destroy without harming the ship passing on either side.
Escorts worked singly or in formation with as many as 40 other escorts. When they worked alone they would use their superior speed to stay ahead of the supply ship(s) but constantly moving from 60 degrees off the starboard bow to 60 degrees off the port bow of the supply ship(s). This allowed the escort to sonar “sweep” a wide path ahead of, and to the side of, the supply ship(s) Zig-zag plans required complex maneuvering by the escort to maintain the 60 degree to port & starboard sonar “sweep”. We knew exactly when the supply ship would zig or zag and what new course he would be on but a different course & speed of the escort was required to maintain the sonar swept “path” for the supply ship(s). CIC provided continuous information to the OOD regarding the need for changes in course or speed to maintain station thus greatly simplifying a complex task.
In mid-1943 a second CIC school, similar to Camp Catlin, was established at Noumea, New Caledonia in order to update various forward area Army, Navy, Marine and Allied people with new developments and techniques. At about the same time CIC Officer schools were being started on both coasts in the U. S.. Graduates of the stateside schools became X Officer Division replacements allowing X Division officers with two years experience to rotate back to the U.S., while graduates of Noumea, and presumably, Camp Catlin schools returned to their units. CIC crews were mostly Radar & Sonar school graduates but early shortages of qualified people required use of some strikers and technical ratings such as Quartermasters and Firecontrolmen
CIC was new, DE’s were new, Radar/Sonar was new, Hedgehogs were new, Tactics were new and perhaps most important - Crews were new. Less than 10% of escort crews had any previous navy experience. Some recruits had actually never seen an automobile prior to enlisting and others had to be taught to read. Yet, within a year of enlisting, Navy schools and the intensive & incessant Navy training methods had these very same people maintaining & repairing massive diesel engines, complex electrical propulsion systems, sophisticated electronic gear, delicate optical devices and all types of naval ordnance. Training was integrated into daily routine. Damage Control Drills, Target Practice, complex maneuvering & navigational chores became routine.
Bangust arrived at Funafuti Atoll in the Ellice Islands (now the Nation of Tuvulu) on 3 February, 1944 - 50 days after the end of of shakedown - 22 days after leaving the U S Mainland. We were not the first DE in the Pacific, a few were in the Southwest Pacific, but we were among the first to arrive in time for mop up operations at Tarawa & Makin in the Central Pacific. We were involved in nearly every Central Pacific operation from our arrival in Funafuti to Tokyo. Our assignments included everything from escorting supply ships, chaperoning U S Submarines , off-shore harbor patrol, entrance patrol, SOPA (Senior Officer Present Afloat), quelling a mutiny aboard a U S Navy oiler, transporting marine air wing crews , search & rescue assignments, plane guard, fighter director, sinking a Japanese submarine and putting a prize crew on another, weighting and sinking civilian corpses off Saipan, transporting mail, personnel and charts to transporting Chinese (yes,- Chinese) prisoners for Naval Intelligence.
During our 646 continuous days away from the U S Mainland we were at sea 77% of the time. The other 23% was in a floating drydock, alongside a repair ship or oiler or supply ship, at anchor in some atoll awaiting assignment, furnishing working parties, or, on rare occasions on some atoll on “liberty” enjoying an inter-ship baseball game or two beers or two cokes.
SO! What did the CIC guys do? In short - CIC provided the eye that could see in the dark & the ear that could hear where no unassisted human could.
All of the above was completed by a bunch of kids who the Navy trained into a smoothly functioning efficient crew to man a new ship built by farmers and housewives hired by a company that heretofore had made steel pipe.
Most of the crew enlisted, trained, took the war to the enemy, came home victorious but still too young to vote. What a Country!!!
Researched and written by Hank Davis with additions by Jim Freeman*
*Jim Freeman is a graduate of the CIC school in Florida & Bangust’s 2nd X Division Officer