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World War II
Flat Tops - How Aircraft Carriers Took Over the Seas

Flat Tops - How Aircraft Carriers Took Over the Seas
Reading Level
     edHelper's suggested reading level:   grades 4 to 6
     Flesch-Kincaid grade level:   3.58

     challenging words:    drawback, half-built, landing, warplane, discovery, assault, warfare, naval, brutal, shocking, wounds, spite, renamed, skilled, important, airship
     content words:    World War, World War I., Pearl Harbor, Many U. S., In May, Coral Sea, Petty Officer Bill Surgi, On June, Bill Surgi, Bon Homme Richard

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Flat Tops - How Aircraft Carriers Took Over the Seas
By Toni Lee Robinson

1     In World War I, an important discovery was made. A plane could be a deadly tool in warfare. Planes had one drawback, however. They could only fly so far before they had to return to their base and refuel. Most naval battles occurred on the high seas. There were no airplane "gas stations" in the middle of the ocean. Was there any way to use planes in naval warfare? Could ships be used to carry planes to the scenes of battle?
2     The idea of ships carrying planes was tested in World War I. A British ship brought seven planes to the coast of Denmark. The planes attacked a German airship base. Many airships were destroyed. They were no longer a threat to Britain. The carrier idea worked!
3     After that, many countries began to make all kinds of ships into aircraft carriers. New battleships were stopped in their tracks, half-built. They never became the floating fortresses they started out to be. Instead, they were turned into floating airports. Hangars were built below the ships' decks. The decks were made wide and flat, like runways stuck on top of the ships. Planes could take off and land on these "flight decks." This feature gave the carriers their nickname. They were called "flat tops."
4     Pilots had to learn to use the new flight decks. Landing a plane on a flat top was a bit tricky. Planes coming in to land were still propelled by a great deal of power. They blasted onto the deck. Even an ace pilot couldn't stop a plane in the short space. To help, planes were equipped with hooks under their tails. As a plane came in, its tail hook would catch on cables that stretched across the deck. The cables would stop the plane's forward thrust. At least, that's how it was supposed to go. Sometimes the cables wouldn't catch the hooks. The plane would hit the crash barrier at the end of the deck. Some pilots were killed in crash landings.
5     Flat tops weren't the most graceful of vessels. Their odd top decks made them look a little funny. They weren't the easiest vessels to maneuver in the water, either. Nevertheless, these "ugly ducks" and their warplane "ducklings" were becoming very important. Squadrons were built around the flat tops. They were protected by armed escorts. Battleships, the earlier queens of the sea, became carrier watchdogs instead.

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