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historians! I asked this question over on the Aviation SE, but was also suggested to ask here. Below is a copy of my question from over there.

I have been trying to figure this out for some time, but have not had much luck elsewhere. I have found info on USAAF bombers, and what ranks the crewmembers often had, but nothing for larger navy aircraft.

I know Pan-Am's Boeing 314 Clipper flying boat was operated by the US Navy for some time during WWII, but I don't know if the USN operated any heavy bombers or other large aircraft. If they did, what would the ranks of the crew (pilot/plane commander, co-pilot, flight engineer, bombardier, radioman, navigator, gunners, etc.) be?

Thanks in advance for any help.

  • By way of comparison, the Canadian Flying Corps at the time graduated roughly half of each flying class as Second Lieutenants and the other half as Pilot Sergeants, both with wings. The distinction seems to have been based more on command potential (and thus perhaps civilian social standing) rather than flying skill. – Pieter Geerkens Aug 26 at 1:22
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Any one from the Aviation Branch could, depending on the needs of the service, be assigned as a crewman in a USN aircraft (though some more or less likely than others), and some not of the Aviation Branch, as well. Typically the usual ratings were: Chief Aviation Pilot (CAP); Aviation Pilot (AP1c, 2c); Aviation Chief Machinist's Mate (ACMM); Aviation Machinist's Mate (AMM1c, 2c, 3c); Aviation Chief Electrician's Mate (ACEM); Aviation Electrician's Mate (AEM1c, 2c, 3c); Aviation Chief Radioman (ACRM); Aviation Radioman (ARM1c, 2c, 3c); Aviation Chief Radio Technician (ACRT); Aviation Radio Technician (ART1c, 2c, 3c); Aviation Chief Metalsmith (ACM); Aviation Metalsmith (AM1c, 2c, 3c); Aviation Chief Ordnanceman (ACOM); Aviation Ordnanceman (AOM1c, 2c, 3c); Chief Parachute Rigger (CPR); Parachute Rigger (PR1c, 2c, 3c); Chief Aerographer's Mate (CAerM); Aerographer's Mate (AerM1c, 2c, 3c); Chief Photographer's Mate (CPhoM); Photographer's Mate, 1st Cl. (PhoM1c, 2c, 3c); Chief Radioman (CRM); Radioman, First Class (RM1c, 2c 3c); and, not particularly unusually, Seaman 1c and 2c.

Insignia on for sleeve ratings marks can be found here

Before April 1942 when all Naval Aviation Pilots (enlisted pilots) still in enlisted status were redesignated in the above Aviation Pilot ratings, one could find NAPs from ratings outside the Aviation Branch ratings; ones rate was not what mattered, what mattered was finishing the NAP course at NAS Pensacola. So one could easily find, for example, torpedomen, gunners mates, yeomen, photographers, and even the occasional Seaman 1c as a rated pilot in a navy airplane.

Enlisted Navy Job Classifications (1945) may be of interest. See pages starting at 125.

Most pilots, and copilots in multi engine aircraft, were officers, anything from a warrant officer (though most of those were commissioned as lieutenants (jg) or lieutenants by the end of 1942) up to commander in a typical operating squadron, though as noted above, there were enlisted pilots. Most enlisted pilots were also offered commissions and most accepted though there were some who remained enlisted for the duration . . . they were not required to accept a commission.

The USN operated just about every multi engine aircraft as the USAAF, with the exception of the B-29, and some that the USAAF did not. Here’s a quick and dirty list, though it mistakenly lists the P2B, the Navy designation for the B-29 as the USN only had 4 of them and none were acquired before April 1947 . . . beware of the internet or at least Wiki.

Crew duties were as the typical USAAF crews although it was not unusual to find an enlisted bombardier, usually of the AOM variety rating. Navigators could be either officers or enlisted. Gunners on planes so equipped, once the training pipeline kicked had to go to gunners school, and while one’s rating was immaterial these slots were predominated by the ARM, AMM, and AOM ratings. Before such places as the Naval Air Gunners School at NAS Hollywood, Fla, were established gunner training was at the squadron level. For crew served aircraft, crews, pilots and all, were generally trained together in an advanced training squadron as a crew and were eventually assigned to a squadron as a complete crew, either as a replacement crew or as a crew in a squadron working up.

Some information on the training command from The Navy's Air War may be of interest. The entire book may downloaded here

And, obviously, not everyone flew combat. In fact, the largest squadrons, measured by number of pilots assigned were in the Naval Air Transport Service; for example in March 1945, the transport squadron VR-11 had 581 officer pilots assigned and 160 officer navigators, ranks ranging from commander down to ensign.

Later . . . now that I've slept . . . I neglected to point you also in this direction (it's terrible, I have all these documents in PDF and then I have to figure out from whence they came). This is Introduction to Naval Aviation published by the Office of Aviation Training, OCNO, in 1946, and provides considerable background of historical interest. Chapter X covers training. https://www.google.com/search?q=Introduction+to+Naval+Aviation&rlz=1C1GCEA_enUS892US892&source=lnms&tbm=bks&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwjS4qSetMXrAhWfoHIEHebuDecQ_AUoAXoECA4QCQ&biw=1346&bih=909

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  • Wow! Thanks for all the information! I'm writing a historic fiction book, does this sound reasonable for a crew based on what there is here? Plane commander/Pilot: LTCDR, Co-Pilot: LT, Radioman and Flight engineer: Petty Officers First Class, Navigator: LTJG, Bombardier: LTJG, Gunners: mix of Seaman 1st and 2nd class, with AOMs, AMMs, and a Parachute Rigger for ratings. – Jazzyamx Aug 26 at 17:05
  • oh, you could, but probably not a parachute rigger, that would be a little rare IMO. Big question is what are they flying? Kind of drives crew positions . . . for example, some of the larger seaplanes carried three pilots to provide some relief on long patrol flights. – R Leonard Aug 26 at 17:33
  • The aircraft is a fictional heavy bomber variant of the Boeing C-98 (AKA the Pan-Am 314 Clipper), with the addition of seven twin .50 cal. turrets and a belly bomb bay. The plane I'm basing it on did carry an extra crewman for reliving any of the flight deck crew at least in civilian service, so would my made-up B-98 possibly carry one extra man, and what rank would they likely be? – Jazzyamx Aug 26 at 17:45
  • That ventures far and beyond my thinking on the subject. Gunners could be any of those AMM, AOM. or ARM usually . . . those are the ones which predominated, but had to be grads of the gunnery school. If you airplane has turret or gun positions near where a radioman might be stationed when not being shot at, then that gunner should be an ARM rating or even an RM. Might want to check those aviation classification lists for radar operators, but that could be an officer of the AVRS variety (not a pilot). Extra pilot could also be an NAP rating. – R Leonard Aug 26 at 18:06

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