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Ship-Plane Mail; Delivery of at Sea

ComCruPac File
ComDesPac File
Serial 061       Serial 0179
CONFIDENTIAL [Declassified]     12 January 1945
From:   Commander Cruisers, Pacific Fleet.      
    Commander Destroyers, Pacific Fleet.      
To:   Cruisers, Pacific Fleet.      
    Destroyers, Pacific Fleet.      

Cruiser Division Commanders, Pacific Fleet.


Destroyer Squadron Commanders, Pacific Fleet.

    Destroyer Division Commanders, Pacific Fleet.      
    Destroyer Escort Division Commanders, Pacific Fleet.      
Subject:   Ship-Plane Mail; Delivery of at Sea.


1. A method of transferring mail between destroyers and planes has been devised. A part of a loop of manila line, to which the mail container is attached, is spread about 75 feet above the destroyer’s deck by means of helium filled balloons. A plane with a hook attached to a trailing line flies over the ship and picks up the mail container.

2. Equipment required to be carried by the destroyer:                                

(a) Two (2) 10 foot target balloons.

*(b) About six (6) cylinders of helium to fill the balloons.                                    

(c) Two (2) 100 foot lengths of manila line to hold the balloons.

(d) One (1) 200 foot length of 1 1/2 inch manila line formed into a loop.

(e) Watertight container for mail. A watertight 5” powder can is recommended.

*Helium bottles will normally be carried by carriers or other large vessels and will be passed to the destroyer when she comes alongside to receive mail that is to be transferred.

3. To rig for passing mail at sea for a plane:                                               

(a) Fill one balloon to capacity (523 cubic feet) and fill the other balloon to about 90% capacity. Plug balloon necks with rags and tie with piece of line to prevent gas from escaping.

(b) Make fast 100 foot length of guide line to each balloon.                                  

(c) Attach loop line to balloon guide lines. Use one and one half turns of ordinary one inch friction tape, attach about five (5) feet from balloon. Part of loop between balloon guide lines should be about 50 feet.                                             

(d) Raise balloons to about 75 feet. The fully inflated balloon is to be forward of the balloon which is 90% inflated. Make after balloon guide lines (90% inflated balloon) fast to star-board lifeline or other suitable fitting near stern of ship.

Make forward balloon guide line (fully inflated balloon) fast to starboard lifeline or other suitable fitting at about frame 140 (guide lines should be made fast about 100 feet apart). Top part of loop should be taut, adjust as necessary to make it so.                                      

(e) Lash, parcel fashion, 5” powder can containing mail to the bottom of the loop. Place loop and mail container outboard of lifeline. Lay mail container in waterway and lash to lifeline with a single strand of small stuff, this to prevent container from rolling over the side and at the same time allowing it to be picked up without undue stress on the loop.

4. In actual tests it was found that the balloon rig remains steadfast if the ship steams down wind at about five (5) knots faster than the wind velocity. Also if the wind is kept 5 to 10 degrees off the port quarter the balloons ride slightly outboard on the starboard side.

5. The pick-up plane will make all runs from port to starboard. The first run will be made without streaming the hook in order to estimate wind drift, ship’s course and speed. The initial pick-up run will be made at an absolute altitude of 170 feet. If this proves to be too high succeeding runs will be made reducing altitude 10 feet per run.

6.  Planes delivering mail to destroyers at sea will normally fly   over the destroyer’s bow and drop a long line (100 to 300 feet) on the ship. A Mae West painted yellow will be on one end of the line and the mail container on the other. If the line misses the ship, pick up using a grapnel.                                           

7.  Destroyer Squadron Commanders are hereby directed to have one (1) ship of each squadron prepared to transfer mail by the method herein described. They are further directed to notify Commander Destroyers, Pacific Fleet, Commander THIRD Fleet, Commander FIFTH Fleet, and their Task Force Commanders of the ship in their squadron so prepared and designated.

8. All cruisers are hereby directed to transfer mail by the method herein described, modifying details of balloon rig as necessary to meet requirements of individual ships.                                           




List I, Case 2 – B, C



CinCPac (4)

ComAirPac (2)



ComFairWing 2





ComFairWing 1

ComCarDivs 1,2,3,4,5,6,







Flag Secretary


Published: Tue Oct 27 15:10:29 EDT 2020