The Timeline for the Freighter Mount Shasta  
   
   
  The freighter Sagaland, a 4865 ton freighter was completed at Oakland, California, in December 1917. Ordered by a Norwegian shipping firm but requisitioned in August 1917 by the U. S. Shipping Board. She was commissioned in the U.S. Navy at Baltimore, Maryland, on August 4, 1918 as the USS Mount Shasta. She served as a cargo ship in the First Word War. The USS Mount Shasta was decommissioned on May 19, 1919 and returned to the Shipping Board. That agency turned her over to the War Department in 1931 for use as a bombing target.

The U.S. Army Air Corps planned was to tow the ship into shallow water not far from Langley Field and anchor it there as a static target for continuous use. However, the Virginia State Commission of Fisheries objected, so it was decided to move the Mount Shasta about fifty-five miles out to sea and use it for a one-time exercise set to take place in August 1931. Although the Air Corps had not meant that the bombing exercise to become a public affair the commanding officer at Langley Field informed the press who reacted as if it were going to be a reenactment of General William Mitchell’s exploits of the early 1920s. Air Corps leaders Major General James E. Fechet and Brigadier General Benjamin D. Foulois knew little about the proposed exercise until the press began to emphasize it. Although neither of them favored the wide publicity, they did nothing to halt the operation. When the bombers failed to find the target on their initial try on August 11 it spurred the Air Corps into developing training into attacking ships over water.
 
   
  Tuesday, August 11, 1931  
  A provisional squadron of nine bombers commanded by Major Herbert A. Dargue took off from Langley Field, Virginia and headed out to sea to locate and attack the freighter Mount Shasta. The planes carried only 300-pound bombs, which the optimistic Dargue believed would be ample to sink the ship. Much to the embarrassment of the U.S. Army Air Corps, the squadron ran into rainy weather en route, could not locate the Mount Shasta, and was forced to return to Langley Field.  
   
  Thursday, August 13, 1931  
  The U.S. Navy used the August 11 failure of a bomber squadron to find and sink the freighter Mount Shasta off the coast of Virginia to embarrass the Air Corps by publicly offering its services in the New York Times to guide the Army bombers to the Mount Shasta and, if necessary, sink the old hulk. The Air Corps was concerned over its poor showing in the exercise. Lt. Colonel Hap Arnold of the Air Corps wrote: “I cannot help but feel that it will have a very detrimental effect on this newly assigned Coast Defense project.”  
   
  Friday, August 14, 1931  
  A provisional squadron of nine Air Corps bombers commanded by Major Herbert A. Dargue took off from Langley Field, Virginia and headed out to sea to locate and attack the freighter Mount Shasta. The planes carried only 300-pound bombs, which the optimistic Dargue believed would be ample to sink the ship. The planes scored several direct hits setting the Mount Shasta on fire, but a U.S. Coast Guard cutter had to be called in to finish off the freighter.  
   
  Sunday, August 30, 1931  
  Hanson W. Baldwin, The New York Times’ military affairs editor and a U.S. Naval Academy graduate, wrote an editorial concerning the inability of the U.S. Army Air Corps’s in to locate the freighter Mount Shasta on its first try on August 11. In the editorial critical of the Air Corps, entitled “Planes versus Ships,” he wrote that it was “illustrative of the inefficiency of land-based pilots over water  . .The inability of the army aviation, however, to find a floating target not more than sixty miles away a problem which is solved almost monthly by Navy fliers is certainly a definite example of the value of specific training for a specific task.” Baldwin also implied that aerial operations against hostile ships should be left to the Navy. He also used the occasion to proclaim that aviation was incapable of acting as America’s first line of defense.  
   
  Friday, October 9, 1931  
  Brigadier General Benjamin D. Foulois, Acting Chief of the U.S. Army Air Corps , requested permission from the General Staff to establish a school to develop coast defense navigation and plotting equipment and tactics. The Air Corps had begun contemplating setting up a special overwater navigation coast defense school in July 1931, but the failure of the Air Corps to find the freighter Mount Shasta on August 11 in front of the national press spurred Foulois and his subordinates to move more quickly on the issue.  
   
  Saturday, November 21, 1931  
  The War Department stressed in its reply to the U.S. Army Air Corps October 9 request to establish a school to develop coast defense navigation and plotting equipment and tactics that “coast defense is a problem which appertains to the Army at large and invokes the utilization of all branches of the Army. The work of the Air Corps, there-fore, along such lines, instead of being segregated in an exempted school, should be coordinated under the normal agencies in the line of command of the Army.” However, the War Department memo directed the Air Corps to submit plans for putting overwater navigation training into effect throughout the Army air arm. The General Staff thought the Air Corps should coordinate intercepting ships at sea operations with coast artillery and mobile ground units. The Air Corps was pressing to open the school due to the poor showing in bombing the freighter Mount Shasta in August.  
   
  Thursday, February 18, 1932  
  U.S. Army Chief of Staff General Douglas MacArthur, met with Brigadier General Benjamin D. Foulois, Acting Chief of the U.S. Army Air Corps , and approved the Air Corps plans for a scaled-down version of a proposed school to develop coast defense navigation and plotting equipment and tactics. The Air Corps was pressing to open the school due to the poor showing in bombing the freighter Mount Shasta in August. In April the school opened at Bolling Field, Washington, D.C., and for the next two years carried out research and development on the problems of coastal air defense equipment, technique, and tactics. The Air Corps, however, did not establish an extensive formal coast defense training program for its tactical units and pilots. Only the 19th Bombardment Group at Rockwell Field, California, actively participated in a continuing program stressing instrument flying and overwater operations in 1932-33.  
   
     
   
 

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