The allied invasion of Kiska
When a Japanese task force of 500 marines swiftly invaded the U.S. occupied island of Kiska, the Americans decided to take it back with 35,000 men.
On August 15, 1943, an invasion force consisting of 34,426 Allied troops, including elements of the 7th Infantry Division, 4th Infantry Regiment, 87th Mountain Infantry Regiment, 5,300 Canadians (mainly the 13th Canadian Infantry Brigade from the 6th Infantry Division, with supporting units including two artillery units from the 7th Infantry Division), 95 ships (including three battleships and a heavy cruiser), and 168 aircraft landed on Kiska, only to find the island completely abandoned. The Japanese, aware of the loss of Attu and the impending arrival of the larger Allied force, had successfully removed their troops on July 28 under the cover of severe fog, without the Allies noticing. Allied casualties during this invasion nevertheless numbered close to 200, all either from friendly fire, booby traps set out by the Japanese to inflict damage on the invading allied forces, or weather-related disease. As a result of the brief engagement between U.S. and Canadian forces, there were 28 American dead as well as four Canadian dead, with an additional 130 casualties from trench foot alone. The destroyer USS Abner Read hit a mine, resulting in 87 casualties.
The Brazilian Sailors Who Shot And Sank Their Ship By Mistake.
With the European theater of World War II drawing to a close, crewmembers of the Bahia—a Brazilian cruiser stationed northeast of Brazil to protect Allied convoys—practiced a live-fire anti-aircraft drill using a kite towed behind the ship as the target. During the course of the exercise, the gunner accidentally hit a row of depth charges on the ship’s stern (the consequence of not placing guard rails to prevent the guns from firing so close to the ship).
Subsequently, the depth charges exploded and sank the ship in just a few minutes, forcing the crewmembers to bail out on lifeboats and endure almost a week out at sea. Of the more than 350 men aboard, only a few dozen survived, with four US Navy personnel among the dead.
The Ship That Almost Torpedoed FDR To Death.
Perhaps no other ship in the US navy can ever surpass the tragicomic history of the William D. Porter and its crew. Its unenviable resume included wrecking a sister ship with its anchor, friendly-firing another one, and accidentally shooting a live round into a base commander’s front yard. However, all these incidents paled in comparison to the time the William D. Porter almost assassinated the president of the United States.
In 1943, the ship, along with three other destroyers, had been assigned to guard the USS Iowa, which carried FDR and his Secretary of State Cordell Hull en route to the Tehran and Cairo Conference. During the trip, the William D. Porter caused a major scare when one of its depth charges accidentally fell to the water and exploded, causing the rest of the convoy to think U-boats had found them.
After that incident, the crew—in a training exercise—inadvertently launched an armed torpedo right at the USS Iowa. The big ship managed to dodge it just in the nick of time.
Although the William D. Porter did finally serve with distinction during the Philippine and Okinawa campaigns, the ship met a demise as bizarre as its mishaps. On June 10, 1945, a kamikaze plane it shot down dove underwater and exploded, sinking the vessel. Miraculously, all the crew members survived.
Battle of Barking Creek.
At 6.15am on 6 September 1939, unidentified aircraft were reported approaching from the east at high altitude over West Mersea, on the Essex coast. In response, six Hurricanes were ordered to be scrambled from 56 Squadron, based at North Weald Airfield in Essex. For some unknown reason, the Squadron’s Commanding Officer, Group Captain Lucking, sent up his entire unit. In addition to these, and unbeknown to the rest of the pilots, two Pilot Officers took up a pair of reserve aircraft and followed at a distance, destined to be the targets of the mistaken attack.
Additionally, 151 Squadron’s Hurricanes (also from North Weald), and Spitfires from 54, 65, and 74 Squadrons based at Hornchurch Airfield scrambled. With the war only three days old, none of the Royal Air Force pilots had seen combat, and very few had ever seen a German plane. Communications between planes and command centres were poor. There was no identifying procedure for pilots to distinguish between enemy and friendly aircraft.
With everyone in the air expecting to see enemy aircraft, and no experience of having done so, the conditions readily lent themselves to misunderstanding. ‘A’ Flight of 74 Squadron saw what they believed were enemy planes and their commanding officer, Adolph “Sailor” Malan, allegedly gave a clear and definite order to engage. Two of the three, Flying Officer Vincent ‘Paddy’ Byrne and Pilot Officer John Freeborn, opened fire.
Malan later claimed to have given a last minute call of ‘friendly aircraft – break away!’ but, whether this actually happened or not, the call was not heard by the attacking pilots.
One Hurricane was piloted by Frank Rose, who was shot down but survived. Pilot Officer Montague Hulton-Harrop, however, did not survive. Fired upon by John Freeborn, he was hit in the back of the head; he was dead before his plane crashed at Manor Farm, Hintlesham, Suffolk, approximately five miles west of Ipswich. He was the first British pilot fatality of the war. His Hurricane was also the first plane shot down by a Spitfire. The entire air-raid warning turned out to be false.
Both Byrne and Freeborn were, along with Group Captain Lucking, placed under close arrest immediately after the incident.
The Luftwaffe’s last major air campaign of the war, which took place on New Years Day, 1945, was another friendly fire disaster. Planned to support the two-week old Ardennes Offensive (aka The Battle of the Bugle), the German high command scraped together the last remaining fighters and bombers for one final aerial blitz aimed at reigniting the stalled push into Belgium. The operation called for 900 aircraft to strike at British and American airfields in the region. Unfortunately, the plan was kept so secret that not even Axis units operating in the area were aware that it was taking place. Assuming the planes suddenly overhead were British and American, German anti-aircraft batteries along the front opened fire on the planes. In all, 300 aircraft were destroyed and more than 200 pilots died. It was the largest loss ever suffered by the Luftwaffe in a single day.