Looking for a way to improve Naval Aviation prewar in the 1930's.

Discussion in 'Alternate History Discussion: After 1900' started by Naval Aviation Fan, Aug 26, 2019.

  1. Astrodragon Coffee-seeking Dragon

    Sep 24, 2008
    UK - Oxfordshire
    My thinking was that as the restriction on tonnage was a purely internal American idea, it could be changed or cancelled at any time, while International treaties are a bit more difficult to get out of.
    Now that's a lot easier to handle (in writing terms), as it basically just requires some sort of incident or tension to achieve
  2. b0ned0me Well-Known Member

    Jul 31, 2011
    Oooo, this is one thing I forgot to mention. By the thirties it’s pretty obvious that diesels are the way merchant shipping is going. Triple-expansion is really only of major interest to luddites (I.e. the British), those desperate to burn coal instead of oil (mostly, the British) or those to skinflint to modernise their Victorian engine-making plants (mostly, the British). Turbines are a thing only for fast liners.

    Welding wasn’t replacing riveting to quite the same extent because it’s a much bigger thing to change how you do the entire ship rather than just changing the engines, but if one was starting a clean-sheet shipyard it might be the logical way to go.
    If the depression hadn’t come along and pissed on everyone’s chips then I think there would have been a market for bigger, faster, welded motorships with rational cargo handling arrangements but alas....
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  3. b0ned0me Well-Known Member

    Jul 31, 2011
    Ok, as I understand it the process for loading a ship in those days was:
    1. Train rolls up with boxcars and flatcars full of sacks and crates of miscellaneous goods
    2. Blokes with handcarts unload all the crap from trains into sheds
    3. Shuffle stuff back and forth between sheds to consolidate/sort by destination, ship, hold, eventually on loading day putting together a big pile of cargo on the dock beside the ship, all by hand etc
    4. A gang of blokes pile sacks and boxes into a cargo net to be craned. The standard dockside cranes IIRC were mostly sized for about 3 tons as the max practical load, old pictures show rows and rows of identical cranes in most ports
    5. Net is lifted into one of the many holds on the ship
    6. Another gang of blokes pull out the sacks and boxes and stow them, where necessary building temporary frameworks of lumber etc to hold the cargo in place and allow them to stack it efficiently (dunnage)
    To unload, reverse the process. It could take weeks to load or unload a big ship with dozens of men labouring full time. Imagine packing hundreds of house removals at once into a 10,000 ton truck. Incredibly labour intensive, a relatively skilled job but also physically exhausting. Lots of stuff lost, broken, stolen. Obviously, exceptions applied I would think getting cargo onto a blue riband liner or mail ship would be pretty slick.

    Note that a lot of ships in that timeframe (like Hog Islanders, Liberty/Victory ships) had their own cranes onboard to let them work places with no cranes or to skip queuing for cranes, if you image search the vertical posts with the angled booms are very distinctive in the silhouette.
    Unloading to the water isn’t generally helpful since then it leaves the customer with the issue of getting the cargo from the water onto land or another ship, but there is another niche here which is unloading to lighters if there is no functional port for the ship to dock at, or if the cargo needs to go up a river etc. But in that case you might also look up LASH/Lighters Aboard Ship, barge carriers etc which would also allow you to get some more mechanisation/unitization of cargo handling.
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  4. sonofpegasus Well-Known Member

    Mar 19, 2012
    By the time WW2 started Doxford in the UK were building their engine frames and casings as welded fabrications. Very advanced for the day. Being slow revving reversible engines no gearboxes were required. Whilst relatively expensive to build these engines were quite economical on fuel and could burn black-oil. a single 8000hp engine makes for a fairly fast tanker whilst two make for a very fast support tanker of escort carrier.
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  5. Naval Aviation Fan Member

    Aug 20, 2019
    Sorry for not responding sooner, almost finished my meds, and am starting to feel better, just two more days and one dose and I'll (hopefully) be back to normal.

    Ok, so if I'm reading and understand this all correctly, it sounds like there was a great deal more 'handling' in the S&H back in the day, lol.

    For my ideas, HH Jr's private Yacht's are going to far off places, and doing things there that require much more than dropping the anchor, and so I'm wanting some specific ideas for how to get the 'deck edge' elevators in civilian use, so cargo of all kinds can be unloaded from the ship to a dock, onto another ship, into the water directly, or onto a beach. So cranes and elevators, and lighters, and some variety of engineering equipment will all need to be carried/used/deployed/recovered from the 'yacht'.

    We have the Hog-Island shipyard getting purchased something post 1921/pre 1930 by HH Sr, so after the last historical ship is completed, but before the place gets scavenged down to nothing, so we have a great big shipyard that in OTL vanished shortly after WWI historically, but in this ATL, is still around if badly under utilized/staffed.

    We have the potential to have HH go into the shipping industry (in a modest way) to pay to keep the shipyard afloat on it's own dime. We also have the ability to introduce a wealthy fellow attempting to build things in a shipyard ~20 years before the things got built in OTL, and with the family business, it shouldn't be to big a leap to try out some of these ideas.

    So, the 'yacht' will need to be a passable merchant ship capable of paying for itself when regularly employed in normal commerce, but being far more capable than a run of the mill cargo ship.

    So, for the excuses I plan to use to explain away the earlier than OTL development(s), I'm planning to use the offshore oil exploration/exploitation that my hero is going to get his hand in, plus all the world record setting thing from OTL, mixed with creating situations where he can make a new world record in new fields. We already have HH setting aviation records, and by getting him into merchant shipping/shipbuilding, and various non-land based aircraft record setting attempts, I'm hoping to get various technologies developed just because HH is doing it, and for no other reason than He want's to. Of course, none of that means that he cannot also be setting himself up for making a huge profit on some of these efforts.

    I'll need ideas for some stunts that can lead to the need for aircraft catapults on ships, already mentioned the deck-edge elevators for cargo/lighters, I want 'handling decks' for seaplane tenders, followed by flying off/catapult off decks/platforms, and then full on cargo ships with a 'landing on deck', that can be setup/taken down on the go at sea...

    For the intermediate step, between OTL cargo handling and containerization, I'm wondering about cargo nets and palettes, so something like a large, sturdy/reusable wooden base, stuff gets stacked up on these, while the pallets are set up in the middle of the nets, and when the thing gets loaded up, just pull the net up and enclose the contents within. Would additional pallets be needed to make a cube for better stowage aboard ship? How much space would have to be sacrificed to speed to load only lots of pre-loaded palleted/netted cargo? You won't get as tight a fit with bulk loading netted/palleted cargo clumps, but at what point is it better to be able to load/unload quickly, versus painstakingly hand loading everything aboard and then painstakingly hand unloading everything from the ship, and repeating this for every voyage?

    Using the numbers from up thread, which I intend for HH to have afloat sometime in the mid 1930's as his latest and greatest personal yacht, how long to load/unload something that monstrous using the historical ways? And if we can speed up the loading/unloading process to say 2 days on each end, how much cargo capacity can we sacrifice if the ships turnaround time allows extra voyages?

    Spit-balling here;
    Say the Hughes Titan cargo ship goes on a voyage that takes, IDK, say 2-3 weeks travel time one way, and then needs 2-3 weeks to offload, and another 2-3 weeks to reload, 2-3 weeks to return, followed by another 2-3 weeks to unload, and still another 2-3 weeks to load up another outbound cargo. Total turn around time here would be 4-6 weeks in transit, + 4-6 weeks at the destination port, + 4-6 weeks back in home port, or 12-18 weeks between runs. Now, if the ship & it's ports are setup for speedy loading/unloading, and we can unload/reload in just two days, what would that do for the ships profit-making potential? 4-6 weeks + 4 days between voyages. If we take the middle time, 39 days/voyage, versus 105 days using historical L/UL times/methods.

    So, using the old/historical ways...
    7 profit making voyages would take 735 days, or just over two years, while using my made up numbers...
    18 profit making voyages would take 702 days, or just under two years.

    Admittedly, these numbers are not likely to be accurate, and I suspect that I'm being a bit to enthusiastic, but at what point would we reach a 'better' shipping option? At what point can we have a need for these Hughes Hog Islander's?
  6. Jellico Well-Known Member

    Dec 14, 2017
    First rule of the game. Don't make a HMS Unicorn. If it looks like a duck people will think it is a duck.

    A LHD always struck me as an interesting way of approaching the problem, mainly because they are so useful in peacetime roles. While on one hand people can point to the flight deck, it is pretty hard to argue about the huge hole in the stern.

    As a concept the idea isn't really ready in the 1920s. Eg ships are probably too small. OTOH you could argue the US has a need for a mobile base that can potter around Pacific islands with their lack of port infrastructure.

    One of the interesting side effects is you get a standard carrier capable hull in serial production which doesn't have to be used as a carrier. Look how the modern LHD/As are built to modified specifications.
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  7. riggerrob Well-Known Member

    Sep 11, 2014
    WI United Fruit Company decides that it needs to be able to rapidly load and unload time-sensitive cargoes like fresh fruit. Standardized boxes with lifting eyes on top would speed up the craning process.
  8. b0ned0me Well-Known Member

    Jul 31, 2011
    The reduction in unloading times is what has driven shipping to be so more efficient, along with reduced fuel and crew costs. However all this is expensive and during recessions it’s usually cheaper to buy old ships at scrap cost from bankrupt companies, pay the crews starvation wages, and cut every safety and maintenance corner imaginable - which is what happened OTL in the thirties. However someone like Hughes might be a candidate to try to turn the shipping world on its head in the crazy days of The Boom.

    There was actually a lot of existing stuff dedicated to shipping perishables, fragile goods etc. and some early containerisation even in the thirties. There really is no substitute for reading contemporary articles to get a feel for the spirit of the times

    Here’s an article from the mid-late thirties about rail freight of chilled goods in Italy, with pictures of basic containers and handling equipment

    Slightly less tedious article overviewing British railways with pictures of break-bulk handling at railway stations, but also pictures of intermodal containers “Special containers are used to convey the goods from house to house, the container being designed to be easily lifted from the van onto the railway wagon for transit by rail. At the end of the rail journey the container is placed again on a road vehicle, and thus the door-to-door journey is made without disturbance of the packing.” Also mad picture of one rail company’s docks at Southampton.

    Also don’t forget that the worlds first assault craft carrying LPD was built in 1935 or so, and it was planned to carry aircraft, so the tech is there if you want to go for a (very) primitive “base development ship” or whatever.
  9. Threadmarks: Second thoughts

    Naval Aviation Fan Member

    Aug 20, 2019
    Ok, so some really good input and information, thanks folks!

    I'm now trying to organize my thoughts for what to research and in what order, and right now I'm looking at the following areas to focus on getting up to speed on, so to speak.
    1. Naval Auxiliary Ships. Seems that there are many types out there, and some renaming going on as well, so this is definitely an area that I am going to have to brush up on. Getting a good grasp of the different types, and when they first appeared historically is probably a good idea, so that when I want Jr to do things that will require his personal expeditions to be able to do things not normally done, I can have him develop something like this tailored for his own uses, and thus paving the way for the proof of concept to have already been worked out and in civilian use, long before 2nd LNT expires.
    2. Offshore platforms & Oil Industry. Someone mentioned getting Jr into the oil industry, and building tankers specifically. This seems to me to be a wonderful opportunity to marry his families historical involvement in producing drill bits for the oil industry, and my own needs for him getting a shipyard. That being said, shipyards don't just produce ships, but can also produce barges, rafts, and offshore drilling rigs/platforms. So I plan to read up quite a bit on offshore platforms and such, and try to justify getting this kind of thing introduced in the interwar years, rather than something that mainly took off post WWII. So Jr needs Yachts for his record setting agenda, and he needs to build ships for commerce, that can also serve other needs. Production of offshore platforms means there is a need to build ships that can be used to tow these platforms into position on site, and it also means that ships will have to service these platforms for supply, maintenance needs, and shift change/crew swapping. Having Jr getting into production of oil tankers seems to be an easy proposition, and just how hard will it be to have him be building Oilers if he is already building tankers, and operating on offshore oil platform or three? Someone up thread asked about having HH purchasing a shipyard in the UK. Right off the top of my head, I couldn't think of a thing that would make that make sense, if he already has a shipyard that is oversized and underutilized. But then I thought, what if were talking about something that needs to be built locally, as you don't want to have to tow an offshore platform across the Atlantic if you don't have too. When I gave a quick look, it seems that the North Sea is a very target rich environment for offshore platforms today, so having a division of Hughes shipbuilding based within the UK might make sense, provided that offshore oil can be developed in the 1920's-1930's time frame. If I can get away with that, other interesting locations might be Southern France, and SE Australia, while back in the USA, the Golf and Pacific coasts might just benefit from the addition of a Hughes Hog Islander" scale shipyards being constructed there, as well. But for these last thoughts, there would have to be justification for a massive offshore exploration and exploitation program.
    3. Seaplanes & Seaplane Tenders. Jr is already an aviation enthusiast historically, but I want to expand his land based aviation efforts to include, over the interwar years, all types of aircraft that can land on/take off of water, so that he can become a leader in the field as far as innovation and developing new aircraft and interactions between ships and planes (and offshore platforms). Seaplanes in this context will include Flying boats, Float planes, as well as Amphibious aircraft. Because of my plans to have him pushing oil exploration and world record setting attempts, I think that this should easily allow for getting him interested in have a tender for his seaplanes, and this makes a crane aboard ship an obvious in to ships having cranes of their own, and then needing to have a 'deck' to lift the seaplane up onto for servicing might be a logical next step. From there, getting a catapult aboard seems like another logical small step to take. Proceeding along these lines, how hard will it be to have a larger 'aircraft deck', fitted as either a permanent feature, or something that can be rigged and taken down, as needed, to provide for more than one aircraft to be carried aboard? Keep in mind here, we are still talking about strictly seaplanes, that land in the water, and are craned aboard, taken to the aircraft deck, serviced, and either catapulted off or lowered back into the water. The next steps would be to have a much more robust 'landing on' deck constructed, as either a permanent part of the ship, or possibly a lesser capability deck, that could be rigged/removed at need? A permanent deck would probably be able to handle much more in the way of heavy/fast aircraft, but that has design consequences that will make for the need for either an off center smokestack/superstructure, or a short landing on deck of limited capability. Again, this won't be for operations of any large amounts of aircraft, and mainly some forms of seaplane, but will allow for the introduction of multi-plane capacity on a single ship. Keeping in mind the need to keep these Yacht's basically a merchantman with special features/capabilities, I'm in favor of the initial efforts being of the rigged/removable type, at least at first, and then perhaps going to a ship with a permanent, and heavy duty capable landing on deck, with a round about track system capable of moving the plane from the stern, around the superstructure, to the forward catapult. This should take place right around the time that the early naval aircraft carriers did the same things, and before they start getting complete flight decks. After this, if we can have the landing on deck, connected to a forward rigged/removable flying off/catapult off deck, then we are basically there! I think that several Yacht's are going to be needed, and that each one should be more capable than the ones before it. Merchantmen are faster/easier to construct than warships I believe, and if I can have Jr building a new Yacht every year as a standing order kind of thing, then progress could be very rapid, and develop far faster than naval aviation advancements would, because he it trying out new things, and doesn't have any other requirements hanging over his head. That being said, unless we can justify large merchant ships having and using rigged/removed aircraft decks, I just don't see a flush deck ship being built at all. That said, I'm open to suggestions on what might make having an elevated, open area a good commercial opportunity. Obviously, an aircraft ferry is one option, but unless you are needing to fly them off, why would they not be better shipped in crates?
    4. Merchantmen and Marine Propulsion. This is an area that I have no real knowledge of, and so will have to take at least a nice little look into. Offhand, there are probably several different types of fuels and engines that I will have to know about. Coal vs Oil, Diesel vs Turbines vs other forms.
    Well, these are the thoughts I'm having right now for what I need to learn about, before I start the adventures of HH.

    Any ideas, opinions or comments? Any requests for things to have HH do?
  10. riggerrob Well-Known Member

    Sep 11, 2014
    WI ocean liners are supplemented by fast, light, medium-range airplanes that can land on the ‘liners’ football pitch.

    The basic mission is for a mail plane to take off a day after the liner leaves port. She lands on the ship and stays onboard for two or three days, then catapults off as soon as they are within (airplane) range of land.
    Soon impatient, wealthy passengers would buy seats on these mail planes to speed their journey or visit cities off the main sailing route.
    These small planes would also be handy if a passenger missed the boat. Rather than risk embarrassment by sailing a week late, they pay-through-the-nose to land-on a half-day’s sail from the departure port.
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  11. Cryhavoc101 Well-Known Member

    Jun 27, 2014
    1123 6536 5321
    To the OP

    Take a leaf out of the German hand book

    Build lots of 'Refrigerated' ships! - These are vessels that were designed to carry 'fresh / perishable goods' across the seas as quickly as possible

    Fast and long range with pre-planned hard points for guns etc

    For you idea - do the same but have the ships readily convertible to an Aux Aircraft Carrier
    jsb likes this.
  12. NOMISYRRUC Rostrum Camera Ken Morse

    Nov 7, 2014
    These are the building dates for the first nine American aircraft carriers IOTL.


    The tonnage used to build Hornet and Essex were built with was authorised under the Naval Act approved on 17th May 1938.

    Hornet was built as a repeat of Yorktown because the powers that be wanted one ship as soon as possible, which meant building her to an existing design because it would take too long to design a new ship.

    However, in your TL the powers could be could decide that both ships were needed as soon as possible. Therefore, Essex would have been ordered in FY1939 like Hornet and like her been built as a repeat of Yorktown.

    The TTL USS Essex would be ready in time to take part in the Tokyo Raid, but it's more likely that she's sent to the Coral Sea instead.

    It should go without saying that more aircraft would have to be built and more aircrew trained to provide her air group, but as someone always says, "but there won't be the aircraft or aircrew for her," when I suggest this, I will say that more aircraft will have to be built and more aircrew will have to be trained. It should also go without saying that if Congress ordered the ship in FY1939 they would also provide the money to buy said aircraft and train said aircrew. It should also go without saying that there was enough time to build the aircraft and train the aircrew. It should also go without saying that the US aircraft industry had the capacity to build the extra aircraft and the USN had the capability to train the aircrew.

    Some of the extra aircraft would include a second batch of Devastators. These would be SBD-2s with more powerful engines than the preceding SBD-1s built IOTL.
  13. NOMISYRRUC Rostrum Camera Ken Morse

    Nov 7, 2014
    I suggest that you read this more thoroughly than I have.


    POD 1934

    Have the 1934 Navy Act include a clause that requires the replacement the USN's 18 existing oilers with new construction by the end of 1939 and build 18 Cimarron class tankers.

    It shouldn't be too controversial a move. They aren't warships, the existing tankers are ageing (we're only starting the replacement programme a few years earlier). they're relatively cheap and it can be justified as an unemployment relief measure as part of New Deal's recovery programme. It looks as if many of the warships and auxiliaries that were begun between in 1934 and 1938 were paid for with money provided through the New Deal.

    When the Maritime Commission is set up it isn't necessary to build more tankers, but make sure that more of the takers that are built are of the Cimarron type.

    When the mass production of CVEs started they concentrate on the C-3 cargo ship design instead of the T-3 tanker design because the former's hull was easier to build, it was because AIUI there wasn't enough capacity to build the gearing for the steam turbines. So you need to find a way to increase America's capacity to build steam turbine engines between 1934 and 1941. Building the 18 fast tankers under the 1934 Naval Act would be a good start. Having the Maritime Commission build more oilers of the Cimarron type before 1941 would also help.
  14. jsb Well-Known Member

    Jun 30, 2013
    I think the best way to screw with the WNT/1LNT is to build a fleet of civilian mail ships that link North/South America and Europe?

    It could be a GB only GB-CAN line or a GB-US joint venture to screw over the other smaller powers the only problem is paying for it when they could have built more real ships than they did anyway.......

    Plymouth to St John is
    Distance 2689 nautical miles
    Vessel speed 15 knots
    time 7 days 11 hours

    But with
    Vessel speed 130 knots
    time 21 hours

    With a suitable aircraft (say civilian Supermarine Walrus or Fairey Swordfish?) it should be able to do it in 4 hops (depending on aircraft range 900 would give 3 just) that only requires 3 ships to be in position in the Atlantic so a fleet of 12 cheap MAC style ships should do it?
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  15. Cryhavoc101 Well-Known Member

    Jun 27, 2014
    1123 6536 5321
    We thrashed out that idea a few years back trying to get one or 2 more Yorktowns by Mid 1942

    While it was unlikely that Wasp is ordered as a fully leaded Yorktown, CV-9 (OTL Lead ship of the Essex class) while OTL it was ordered at the same time as CV-8 USS Hornet ITTL it is ordered as a 4th Yorktown being laid down at the same time as Hornet.

    Something would have to scare congress before or at the Panay incident to massively increase the allowed aircraft carrier tonnage (as well as a corresponding increase in Escorts and light Cruisers)

    The other thing that might be more aligned with the OP is that US Intel gets wind of the big fast liners the Japanese were building (that became Junyo and Hiyo) gets discovered earlier and so this kick starts a similar program based on what would be the OTL CVLs earlier (ie they start turn up in time for 1942 which would pay massive dividends for both the Pacific battles and the Battle of the Atlantic)
  16. NOMISYRRUC Rostrum Camera Ken Morse

    Nov 7, 2014
    Yes, I remember that thread.

    IIRC I suggested ordering a second Yorktown in FY1939 and still ordering the OTL Essex in FY1940. The second Yorktown in FY1939 was going to be CV8A and be named USS Constellation.
  17. Cryhavoc101 Well-Known Member

    Jun 27, 2014
    1123 6536 5321
    Yes that's right - no one seemed to be a fan of naming the OTL Essex class the Bon Homme Richard class for some reason!
  18. McPherson McPherson; a guy who needs a shave.

    Oct 29, 2017
    Somewhere where rockets fly.
    You have a logical progression (terminology mine and based on the Spanish American War when this actually starts because the USN is the FIRST navy that has to confront operational out of area, no owned bases nearby, situations in war with a mostly steam propelled navy.

    1. Colliers. or fuel stores ship.
    2. Ammunition ships.
    3. Troop ships, boy was that a mess.
    4. Floating machine shops.
    5. Tugs.
    6. Minesweepers.
    7. Close cover defense escorts (The Spanish snapped up a lot of US trade shipping in the Atlantic during the Spanish American War. Didn't know that, did you?)
    8. Floating machine shops. (Dewey converted a hulk and used it during the long Manila Bay blockade to keep his fleet "repaired".
    9. Hospital ship. (Used during the Siege of Manila, another "expedient".)
    10. Floating Drydocks. Post Spanish American War, the Americans needed something into which to put a ship to debarnacle it. War with Germany was a possibility and in the Western Pacific, such a auxiliary was essential.

    11.The geology does not exist yet.
    12. How does Hughes get around British laws?

    13. Amphibians like the Grumman Goose or Duck. Build a flattop yacht for a rich oil sheik or some Dutch oil tycoon loon in Indonesia. Get used to dedicated reconnaissance platforms (oil survey/espionage)
    14. Tag team with Dornier and build South American mail-packets. 2 for 1. The US gets Dornier flying boats with fuel injected aviation diesels (I'm thinking torpedo bomber Rikkos.)


    15. Diesel/electric, early and often.
    15. Yeah... Build this;

    Last edited: Sep 8, 2019
  19. NOMISYRRUC Rostrum Camera Ken Morse

    Nov 7, 2014
    Perhaps it was to avoid confusion with the OTL Bon Homme Richard.
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  20. riggerrob Well-Known Member

    Sep 11, 2014
    "With a suitable aircraft (say civilian Supermarine Walrus or Fairey Swordfish?) it should be able to do it in 4 hops (depending on aircraft range 900 would give 3 just) that only requires 3 ships to be in position in the Atlantic so a fleet of 12 cheap MAC style ships should do it?[/QUOTE]"

    Have you ever sailed the North Atlantic in winter?
    Even Beartrap landings are scary when the flight deck rolls 40 degrees!
    Float planes do not last very long when landed in rough seas.
    They also have about twice the empty weight as a land plane carrying the same cargo.

    That is why I suggested light, medium-range mail planes taking off from ocean liners. Even if they only "hop' at the start and end of ocean-crossings, they can shave a day or three from mail delivery schedules.
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