Forgotten History-The Swiss Airforce during WWII.

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Although Switzerland remained neutral throughout World War II, it had to deal with numerous violations of its airspace by combatants from both sides – initially by German aircraft, especially during their invasion of France in 1940. Zealous Swiss pilots attacked and shot down eleven German aircraft, losing two of their own, before a threatening memorandum from the German leadership forced General Guisan to forbid air combat above Swiss territory.

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Later in the war, the Allied bomber offensive sometimes took US or British bombers into Swiss airspace, either damaged craft seeking safe haven or even on occasions bombing Swiss cities by accident.

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Swiss aircraft would attempt to intercept individual aircraft and force them to land, interning the crews. Only one further Swiss pilot was killed during the war, shot down by a US fighter in September 1944. From September red and white neutrality bands were added to the wings of aircraft to stop accidental attacks on Swiss aircraft by Allied aircraft.

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From 1943 Switzerland shot down American and British aircraft, mainly bombers, overflying Switzerland during World War II: six by Swiss air force fighters and nine by flak cannons, and 36 airmen were killed. On 1 October 1943 the first American bomber was shot near Bad Ragaz: Only three men survived.

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The officers were interned in Davos, airmen in Adelboden. The representative of the U.S. military in Bern, U.S. military attaché Barnwell R. Legge, instructed the soldiers not to flee so as to allow the U.S. Legation to coordinate their escape attempts, but the majority of the soldiers thought it was a diplomatic ruse or did not receive the instruction directly.

On 1 October 1944 Switzerland housed 39,670 internees in all: 20,650 from Italy, 10,082 from Poland, 2,643 from the United States, 1,121 from the United Kingdom (including five Australians), 822 from the Soviet Union and 245 from France. In September the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) was commissioned by the U.S. supreme command to organize the escapes of 1,000 American internees, but the task was not effectively accomplished before late winter 1944/45.

 

Soldiers who were caught after their escape from the internment camp, were often detained in the Wauwilermoos internment camp near Luzern.

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Official Swiss records identify 6,501 airspace violations during the course of the war, with 198 foreign aircraft landing on Swiss territory and 56 aircraft crashing there.

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James M. Hansen-an American Liberator.

 

2017-01-03-3Returning from a bombing raid of Germany’s Ruhr Valley in 1944, American pilot James M. Hansen’s fighter plane ran into trouble and crashed. James was killed instantly. The Allies, who buried him in the temporary American military cemetery in the village of Molenhoek near the Dutch city of Nijmegen, placed this wooden cross on his grave.

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Then in 1947 a cemetery in the Dutch village of Margraten was designated as the permanent burial ground for fallen American soldiers.

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The rest of the temporary American cemeteries were shut down. And just like thousands of other American soldiers, James M. Hansen’s body was reburied in the Netherlands American Cemetery in Margraten.

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Awards: Distinguished Flying Cross, Air Medal with 7 Oak Leaf Clusters, Purple Heart

The wooden cross stayed behind in Molenhoek, only to be discovered by chance in 1990. The ground of the Margraten cemetery was donated in perpetuity to the United States by the Dutch government, as an expression of reverence and gratitude.

Thank you Sir for sacrificing your life so I could live mine in freedom. RIP.

Freckleton air disaster-23 August 1944

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During WWII there were several incidents where civilians were killed by friendly fire by allied forces, like the 5 Oct 1942 air raid on Geleen.

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Or by accident like the Freckleton Air Disaster.

On 23 August 1944, an American United States Army Air Forces Consolidated B-24 Liberator heavy bomber crashed into the centre of the village of Freckleton, Lancashire, England. The aircraft crashed into the Holy Trinity Church of England School, demolishing three houses and the Sad Sack Snack Bar. The death toll was 61, including 38 children.

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Two newly refurbished B-24s, prior to delivery to the 2nd Combat Division, departed USAAF Base Air Depot 2 at Warton Aerodrome on a test flight at 10.30 am. Due to an impending violent storm, both were recalled. By the time they had returned to the vicinity of the aerodrome, however, the wind and rain had significantly reduced visibility. Contemporary newspaper reports detailed wind velocities approaching 60 mph (100 km/h), water spouts in the Ribble Estuary and flash flooding in Southport and Blackpool.

At Holy Trinity School, teachers and students observed the darkness descend on the village. The pounding rain was overshadowed by the gusting winds, the roar of thunder, and lightning bolts slicing through the sky. Five years old at the time, Ruby Whittle (nee Currell) remembers, “It went very, very dark. There was thunder and lightning, and all sorts of crashes and bangs overhead. I remember the teacher putting on the classroom lights and she began reading to us.”

On approach from the west, towards runway 08, and in formation with the second aircraft, First Lieutenant John Bloemendal,pilot of the first Consolidated B-24H Liberator USAAF serial number 42-50291 (named Classy Chassis II), reported to the control tower that he was aborting landing at the last moment and would perform a go-around.

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Shortly afterwards, and out of sight of the second aircraft, the aircraft hit the village of Freckleton, just east of the airfield.

Already flying very low to the ground and with wings near vertical, the aircraft’s right wing tip first hit a tree-top, and then was ripped away as it impacted with the corner of a building. The rest of the wing continued, ploughing along the ground and through a hedge. The fuselage of the 25-ton bomber continued, partly demolishing three houses and the Sad Sack Snack Bar, before crossing Lytham Road and bursting into flames. A part of the aircraft hit the infants’ wing of Freckleton Holy Trinity School. Fuel from the ruptured tanks ignited and produced a sea of flames.

In the school, thirty-eight school children and six adults were killed. The clock in one classroom stopped at 10.47 am. In the Sad Sack Snack Bar, which catered specifically for American servicemen from the airbase, fourteen were killed: seven Americans, four Royal Air Force airmen and three civilians. The three crew on the B-24 were also killed.

A total of 23 adults and 38 children died in the disaster.

The devastation in the infants’ wing was complete. Seven of the young victims were either first or second cousins to each other. Ironically, three of the children were evacuees from the London area. They had come to Freckleton as part of Operation Rivulet. The British government had instituted this program to move children to safe havens out of the range of German V-1 rocket attacks. Only two children from Freckleton, Ruby Whittle and George Carey (David Madden was from Brighton, England), escaped the infants’ wing devastation. For years to come, the local school was missing an entire grade level.

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The official report stated that the exact cause of the crash was unknown, but concluded that the pilot had not fully realised the danger the storm posed until under way in his final approach, by which time he had insufficient altitude and speed to manoeuvre, given the probable strength of wind and downdraughts that must have prevailed.

Structural failure of the aircraft in the extreme conditions was not ruled out, although the complete destruction of the airframe had precluded any meaningful investigation.

Noting that many of the pilots coming to the UK commonly believed that British storms were little more than showers, the report recommended that all U.S. trained pilots should be emphatically warned of the dangers of British thunderstormsWorld-War-2-Casualties-The-Freckleton-Air-Disaster-1.

A memorial garden and children’s playground were opened in August 1945, in memory of those lost, the money for the playground equipment having been raised by American airmen at the Warton airbase. A fund for a memorial hall was started, and the hall was finally opened in September 1977. In addition to a memorial in the village churchyard, a marker was placed at the site of the accident in 2007

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The “Ye olde pub” incident.

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Considering the title and the picture above one could be forgiven to think that this incident was a dare fueled by alcoholic beverages, which were consumed in a pub.

But nothing could be further from the truth the “ye olde oub incident” or AKA “The Charlie Brown and Franz Stigler incident” was in fact one of those rare chivalrous acts by a German Luftwaffe pilot, you don’t often hear or read about.

The incident occurred on 20 December 1943, when, after a successful bomb run on Bremen, Charles “Charlie” Brown’s B-17 Flying Fortress (named “Ye Olde Pub”) was severely damaged by German fighters. Luftwaffe ace Franz Stigler had the opportunity to shoot down the crippled bomber, but for humane reasons, he decided to allow the crew to fly back to RAF Kimbolton in England.

2nd Lt. Charlie Brown (“a farm boy from Weston, West Virginia”, in his own words) was a B-17F pilot with United States Army Air Forces (USAAF)’s379th Bomber Group, stationed at RAF Kimbolton in England.Franz Stigler, a former airline pilot from Bavaria, was a veteran Luftwaffe fighter pilot attached to Jagdgeschwader 27; at the time, he had 22 victories to his name and would be eligible for the coveted Knight’s Cross with one more downed enemy bomber

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Brown’s B-17F Flying Fortress, was typical of American heavy bombers of the time. Along with an 8,000-pound bomb capacity, the four-engine plane was armed with 11 machine guns and strategically placed armor plating. B-17s cruised at about 27,000 feet, but weren’t pressurized. At that altitude, the air is thin and cold — 60 degrees below zero. Pilots and crew relied upon an onboard oxygen system and really warm flight suits with heated shoes.

As Ye Old Pub approached Bremen, Germany, German anti-aircraft batteries opened up on the formation. Unfortunately for the pilots and crew of Ye Olde Pub, one of the anti-aircraft rounds exploded right in front of their plane, destroying the number two engine and damaging number four. Missing one engine and with another throttled back due to damage, Ye Olde Pub could no longer keep up with the formation.

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The mission was the Ye Olde Pub crew’s first, and targeted the Focke-Wulf 190 aircraft production facility in Bremen. The men of the 527th Bombardment Squadron were informed in a pre-mission briefing that they might encounter hundreds of German fighters. Bremen was guarded by 250 flak guns, operated by the elite Officer Candidate School (OCS) of gunners. Brown’s crew was assigned to fly “Purple Heart Corner,” a spot on the edge of the formation that was considered especially dangerous.

Brown’s B-17 began its 10-minute bomb run at 27,300 ft (8,300 m) with an outside air temperature of −60 °C (−76 °F). Before the bomber released its bomb load, accurate flak shattered the Plexiglas nose, knocked out the number two engine and further damaged the number four engine, which was already in questionable condition and had to be throttled back to prevent overspeeding. The damage slowed the bomber, and Brown was unable to remain with his formation and fell back as a straggler – a position from which he came under sustained enemy attacks.

Brown’s straggling B-17 was now attacked by over a dozen enemy fighters (a mixture of Messerschmitt Bf 109s and Focke-Wulf Fw 190s) of JG-11 for over 10 minutes.

Further damage was sustained, including damage to the number three engine, which would produce only half power (meaning the aircraft had at best 40% of its total rated power available). The bomber’s internal oxygen, hydraulic and electrical systems were also damaged, and the bomber lost half of its rudder and its port (left side) elevator, as well as its nose cone. The gunners’ weapons then jammed, probably as a result of improper pre-mission oiling, leaving the bomber with only two dorsal turret guns and one of three forward-firing nose guns (from eleven available) for defense.Most of the crew were wounded: the tail gunner, Eckenrode, had been killed by a direct hit from a fighter shell, while Sgt Yelesanko was critically wounded in the leg by shrapnel,Sgt. Pechout had been hit in the eye by a shell fragment, and Brown was wounded in his right shoulder.The morphine syrettes onboard froze, complicating first-aid efforts by the crew, while the radio was destroyed and the bomber’s exterior was heavily damaged.

Brown’s damaged bomber was spotted by Germans on the ground, including Franz Stigler, who was refueling and rearming at an airfield. He soon took off in his Messerschmitt Bf 109 G-6 (which had a .50 Browning Machine Gun bullet embedded in the radiator which risked the engine overheating) and quickly caught up with Brown’s plane. Through the damaged bomber’s airframe Stigler was able to see the injured and incapacitated crew. To the American pilot’s surprise, Stigler did not open fire on the crippled bomber. Stigler recalled the words of one of his commanding officers from Jagdgeschwader 27, Gustav Rödel, during his time fighting in North Africa, “If I ever see or hear of you shooting at a man in a parachute, I will shoot you myself.” Stigler later commented, “To me, it was just like they were in a parachute. I saw them and I couldn’t shoot them down.”

Twice, Stigler tried to get Brown to land his plane at a German airfield and surrender, or divert to nearby neutral Sweden, where he and his crew would receive medical treatment and be interned the remainder of the war. Brown and the crew of the B-17 didn’t understand what Stigler was trying to mouth and gesture to them and so flew on. Stigler later told Brown he was trying to get them to fly to Sweden. Stigler then flew near Brown’s plane in a formation on the bomber’s port side wing, so German antiaircraft units would not target it; he then escorted the damaged B-17 over the coast until they reached open water. Brown, unsure of Stigler’s intentions at the time, ordered his dorsal turret gunner to point at Stigler but not open fire in order to warn him off. Understanding the message and certain that the bomber was out of German airspace, Stigler departed with a salute.

The bomber made it back to England, scarcely able to keep 250 feet between itself and the ground by the time it landed in a smoking pile of exhausted men and shredded aluminum. Years later, Brown would say that if Stigler had been able to talk to him, offering the land in Germany or fly to Sweden ultimatum, he probably would have gone to Sweden. But Ye Olde Pub did make it, and Brown got a much needed stiff drink handed to him when he got off the plane.

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The incredulous debriefing officer, wowed by Brown’s story, went off to tell the brass what had happened. He recommended Brown’s crew for citation, but the glory was short-lived. Brass quickly decided that word getting out about a chivalrous German fighter pilot could endanger the lives of other crews if it caused them to let their guard down. All details of Ye Olde Pub’s first mission were classified Secret.

Stigler was never able to speak of his actions that day, as it would have meant certain court martial. He flew many more missions, though, becoming one of the world’s first fighter jet pilots. By the war’s end, he was one of only about 1,300 surviving Luftwaffe pilots. Some 28,000 had served..

After the war, Brown returned home to West Virginia and went to college, returning to the Air Force in 1949 and serving until 1965. Later, as a State Department Foreign Service Officer, he made numerous trips to Laos and Vietnam. But in 1972, he retired from government service and moved to Miami to become an inventor.

Stigler moved to Canada in 1953 and became a successful businessman.

In 1986, the then-retired Colonel Brown was asked to speak at a combat pilot reunion event called “Gathering of the Eagles”. Someone asked him if he had any memorable missions during World War II; Brown thought for a minute and recalled the story of Stigler’s escort and salute. Afterwards, Brown decided he should try to find the unknown German pilot.

After four years of searching vainly for U.S. and West German Air Force records that might shed some light on who the other pilot was, Brown hadn’t come up with much. He then wrote a letter to a combat pilot association newsletter. A few months later, Brown received a letter from Stigler, who was living in Canada. “I was the one”, it said. When they spoke on the phone, Stigler described his plane, the escort and salute confirming everything Brown needed to hear to know he was the German fighter pilot involved in the incident.

Between 1990 and 2008, Charlie Brown and Franz Stigler became close friends and remained so until their deaths within several months of each other in 2008.

B-25 Empire State Building Crash- 28 July 1945.

We have all seen the horrific scenes of the 9/11 attacks in New York, the 2 images of the 2 planes crashing into the twin towers will forever be ingrained in our minds.

But this wasn’t the first time a plane had crashed into a New York skyscraper. On July 28 1945, near the end of WWII a B-25 bomber crashed into the Empire state Building,however this time it wasn’t an act of terror but an accident.

On the foggy morning of Saturday, July 28, 1945, Lt. Colonel William Smith was piloting a U.S. Army B-25 bomber through New York City when he crashed into the Empire State Building at 9:45 a.m, killing 14 people.

Lt. Colonel William Smith was on his way to Newark Airport to pick up his commanding officer, but for some reason he showed up over LaGuardia Airport and asked for a weather report.

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Because of the poor visibility, the LaGuardia tower wanted to him to land, but Smith requested and received permission from the military to continue on to Newark.

The last transmission from the LaGuardia tower to the plane was a foreboding warning: “From where I’m sitting, I can’t see the top of the Empire State Building.”

He was piloting a B-25 Mitchell bomber on a routine personnel transport mission from Bedford Army Air Field to Newark Airport.

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Smith asked for clearance to land, but was advised of zero visibility. Proceeding anyway, he became disoriented by the fog, and started turning right instead of left after passing the Chrysler Building.

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At 9:40 a.m., the aircraft crashed into the north side of the Empire State Building, between the 78th and 80th floors, carving an 18-by-20-foot (5.5 m × 6.1 m) hole in the building where the offices of the National Catholic Welfare Council were located.World War II had caused many to shift to a six-day work week; thus there were many people at work in the Empire State Building that Saturday The majority of the plane hit the 79th floor, creating a hole in the building 18 feet wide and 20 feet high.The plane’s high-octane fuel exploded, hurtling flames down the side of the building and inside through hallways and stairwells all the way down to the 75th floor.

One engine shot through the South side opposite the impact and flew as far as the next block, dropping 900 feet and landing on the roof of a nearby building and starting a fire that destroyed a penthouse art studio. The other engine and part of the landing gear plummeted down an elevator shaft. The resulting fire was extinguished in 40 minutes. It is still the only fire at such a height to be brought under control.

Fourteen people were killed: Smith, the two others aboard the bomber (Staff Sergeant Christopher Domitrovich and Albert Perna, a Navy aviation machinist’s friend hitching a ride), and eleven others in the building.

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Smith was not found until two days later after search crews found that his body had gone through an elevator shaft and fallen to the bottom. Elevator operator Betty Lou Oliver was injured. Rescuers decided to transport her on an elevator that they did not know had weakened cables. The cables snapped and the elevator fell 75 stories, ending up in the basements. She managed to survive the fall, which still stands as the Guinness World Record for the longest survived elevator fall, and was later found by rescue workers among the rubble.

 

Despite the damage and loss of life, the building was open for business on many floors on the following Monday. The crash spurred the passage of the long-pending Federal Tort Claims Act of 1946, as well as the insertion of retroactive provisions into the law, allowing people to sue the government for the accident.

A missing stone in the facade served as evidence of where the aircraft crashed into the building.

In the 1960s, when the World Trade Center was being designed, this B-25 impact incident served as motivation for the designers to consider a scenario of an accidental impact of a Boeing 707 into one of the twin towers (this was prior to the introduction of the 767, which crashed into WTC 1 and 2 on September 11th, 2001).

Roald Dahl-WWII Flying Ace and Spy.

For decades I have been enjoying his stories from ‘Charlie and the chocolate factory’ and ‘BfG’ to the creepy ‘Tales of the Unexpected’ stories.

In all those years I never realized that Roald Dahl had actively been involved in WWII,it was only because of the release of the new movie ‘BfG’ I looked into Roald Dahl’s life again.

Roald Dahl (13 September 1916 – 23 November 1990) was a British novelist, short story writer, poet, screenwriter, and fighter pilot. His books have sold over 200 million copies worldwide.

Born in Wales to Norwegian parents, Dahl served in the Royal Air Force during the Second World War, in which he became a flying ace and intelligence officer, rising to the rank of acting wing commander. He rose to prominence in the 1940s with works for both children and adults and he became one of the world’s best-selling authors. He has been referred to as “one of the greatest storytellers for children of the 20th century”. His awards for contribution to literature include the 1983 World Fantasy Award for Life Achievement, and the British Book Awards’Children’s Author of the Year in 1990. In 2008, The Times placed Dahl 16th on its list of “The 50 greatest British writers since 1945.

Following the outbreak of World War II in September 1939, Roald Dahl enlisted in the RAF ,something which would have a huge effect on his life in many ways.

It was in November 1939 that Roald decided to enlist in the Royal Air Force (RAF) at 23 years old. He travelled to Nairobi for his medical and a month later commenced flying training in Tiger Moths alongside 15 other men of a similar age.

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Dahl loved flying, and once described it as “marvellous fun” in a letter sent to his mother during his flying training. Despite being so tall (well over 6ft) he still managed to squeeze himself into the airplane cockpit and the other men in his squadron gave him the nickname “Lofty”.

Well I have a minimum height for pilots but no maximum, so as you are fit, you’ll do

The doctor at Roald’s RAF medical

On completion of the course he travelled to Iraq for Advanced Training on Hawker Harts, and was then commissioned as a Pilot Officer in the RAF Volunteer Reserve and posted to 80 Squadron based in North Africa to fly “Gloster Gladiators against the Italians in the Western Desert of Libya,” as he says in Going Solo (the Gloster Gladiator “was an out-of-date fighter biplane with a radial engine”).

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In September 1940, Roald’s Gladiator crashed in the Western Desert of North Africa and he received severe injuries to his head, nose and back. Following this he was taken to the Anglo-Swiss Hospital in Alexandria, Egypt where he spent around six months recovering from his injuries, under the care of the hospital staff.

In February 1941, Dahl was discharged from hospital and passed fully fit for flying duties. By this time, 80 Squadron had been transferred to the Greek campaign and based at Eleusina, near Athens. The squadron was now equipped with Hawker Hurricanes.

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Dahl flew a replacement Hurricane across the Mediterranean Sea in April 1941, after seven hours flying Hurricanes. By this stage in the Greek campaign, the RAF had only 18 combat aircraft in Greece: 14 Hurricanes and four Bristol Blenheim light bombers. Dahl saw his first aerial combat on 15 April 1941, while flying alone over the city of Chalcis. He attacked six Junkers Ju-88s that were bombing ships and shot one down. On 16 April in another air battle, he shot down another Ju-88.

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On 20 April 1941, Dahl took part in the “Battle of Athens”, alongside the highest-scoring British Commonwealth ace of World War II, Pat Pattle, and Dahl’s friend David Coke. Of 12 Hurricanes involved, five were shot down and four of their pilots killed, including Pattle.

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Greek observers on the ground counted 22 German aircraft downed, but because of the confusion of the aerial engagement, none of the pilots knew which aircraft they had shot down. Dahl described it as “an endless blur of enemy fighters whizzing towards me from every side

In May, as the Germans were pressing on Athens, Dahl was evacuated to Egypt. His squadron was reassembled in Haifa. From there, Dahl flew sorties every day for a period of four weeks, shooting down a Vichy French Air Force Potez 63 on 8 June

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and another Ju-88 on 15 June, but he then began to get severe headaches that caused him to black out. He was invalided home to Britain. Though at this time Dahl was only a pilot officer on probation, in September 1941 he was simultaneously confirmed as a pilot officer and promoted to war substantive flying officer.

One year after being discharged from the RAF, Roald was posted to the British Embassy in Washington D.C. as an Assistant Air Attaché, where a chance encounter with the writer C.S. Forester led to the publication of his first short story, Shot Down Over Libya (also known as A Piece of Cake).

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C. S. Forester, was also working to aid the British war effort. The Saturday Evening Post had asked Forester to write a story based on Dahl’s flying experiences; Forester asked Dahl to write down some RAF anecdotes so that he could shape them into a story. After Forester read what Dahl had given him, he decided to publish the story exactly as Dahl had written it. The original title of the article was “A Piece of Cake” but the title was changed to “Shot Down Over Libya” to make it sound more dramatic, despite the fact that Dahl had not actually been shot down; it appeared in 1 August issue of the Post. He shared a house at 1610 34th Street, NW, in Georgetown, with another attaché. Dahl socialized with Texas publisher and oilman Charles E. Marsh at his house at 2136 R Street, NW, and the Marsh country estate in Virginia.

Dahl was promoted to flight lieutenant (war-substantive) in August. During the war, Forester worked for the British Information Service and was writing propaganda for the Allied cause, mainly for American consumption. This work introduced Dahl to espionage and the activities of the Canadian spymaster William Stephenson, known by the codename “Intrepid”.

During the war, Dahl supplied intelligence from Washington to Stephenson and his organisation known as British Security Coordination, which was part of MI6. He said in the 1980s that he promoted Britain’s interests and message in the United States and combatted the “America First” movement, working with such other well-known officers as Ian Fleming and David Ogilvy.

Dahl was once sent back to Britain by British Embassy officials, supposedly for misconduct – “I got booted out by the big boys,” he said. Stephenson promptly sent him back to Washington—with a promotion to wing commander. Towards the end of the war, Dahl wrote some of the history of the secret organisation and he and Stephenson remained friends for decades after the war.

Upon the war’s conclusion, Dahl held the rank of a temporary wing commander (substantive flight lieutenant). Owing to the seriousness of his accident in 1940, he was pronounced unfit for further service and was invalided out of the RAF in August 1946. He left the service with the substantive rank of squadron leader.His record of five aerial victories, qualifying him as a flying ace, has been confirmed by post-war research and cross-referenced in Axis records, although it is most likely that he scored more than that during 20 April 1941 when 22 German aircraft were shot down.

Bockscar the plane that dropped ‘Fat Man’ on Nagasaki

Boeing B-29 "Bockscar"

Most people will know the name ‘Enola Gay’ the plane that dropped the 1st Atomic bomb on Hiroshima but surprisingly not that many people will have heard of the plane that dropped the bomb on Nagasaki, some even think that Enola Gay dropped both.

Bockscar, sometimes called Bock’s Car, is the name of the United States Army Air Forces B-29 bomber that dropped a Fat Man nuclear weapon over the Japanese city of Nagasaki during World War II in the second – and last – nuclear attack in history. One of 15 Silverplate B-29s used by the 509th, Bockscar was built at the Glenn L. Martin Aircraft Plant at Bellevue, Nebraska, at what is now Offutt Air Force Base, and delivered to the United States Army Air Forces on 19 March 1945. It was assigned to the 393d Bombardment Squadron, 509th Composite Group to Wendover Army Air Field, Utah in April.

When the United States made the decision to drop the atomic bomb on Hiroshima, Japan on Monday, August 6, 1945, the hope was that this action would end the war. The bomb, nicknamed “Little Boy”,

was dropped by the B-29 Superfortress bomber Enola Gay.

And although it took a second atomic bomb to force Japan to surrender, the Enola Gay’s name has gone down in history as the plane that was responsible for ending WWII.

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But the crew of the Enola Gay only dropped the first bomb. Three days later, on Thursday, August 9, a second atomic bomb, this one nicknamed “Fat Man” was dropped on Nagasaki. The B-29 that delivered this, the final blow to the Japanese, was known as Bockscar.

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Originally, The Great Artiste commanded by Major Charles W. Sweeney was the plane scheduled to drop the second atomic bomb. Sweeney and his crew C-15 had previously flown The Great Artiste with the Enola Gay on her flight to Hiroshima on August 6, carrying instrumentation to record and support the mission. Upon their return Sweeney and his crew began to prepare for their turn. The next mission was planned for August 11 but due to a poor weather forecast, the commanders decided to move the attack up by two days, setting a new date of August 9. Sweeney and his crew had been doing training runs in Captain Bock’s plane Bockscar while The Great Artiste was to have its instruments removed and installed in another plane.

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However, when the mission date moved forward, it did not give the ground crews enough time to do the transfer, so it was decided that Sweeney and Bock would switch planes. Hence, Bock and his crew flew The Great Artiste in a support role on the mission and Sweeney and his crew, aboard Bockscar, became the primary unit to drop the second atomic bomb on Japan.

The primary target for the August 9 bombing mission was the industrial city of Kokura. However, when the Bockscar arrived over the city with Fat Man ready to be deployed, the crew found that visibility over the city was obscured by clouds and smog. Sweeney’s orders were specific in that the atomic bomb had to be dropped visually on the target.

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Failing to spot their target after passing over Kokura three times, Sweeney decided to proceed to the secondary target of Nagasaki. At 11:02am, Fat Man, the atomic bomb with 14.1 lbs of plutonium-239, was dropped. The bomb detonated about 43 seconds later at an altitude of about 1,540 feet above the ground. Approximately 40% of Nagasaki was destroyed

Although Fat Man was considered a more powerful bomb than Little Boy, the hilly terrain helped to deaden the destruction whereas Hiroshima was flat and open and thus suffered much greater devastation. What twist of fate saved the people of Kokura and yet doomed so many citizens of Nagasaki?

It’s also known that many survivors of the Hiroshima bombing made their way to Nagasaki only to experience the second terrifying explosion all over again. Many of them did not survive the second time.

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The failure to drop the Fat Man at the precise bomb aim point caused the atomic blast to be confined to the Urakami Valley. As a consequence, a major portion of the city was protected by the intervening hills, but even so, the bomb was dropped over the city’s industrial valley midway between the Mitsubishi Steel and Arms Works in the south and the Mitsubishi-Urakami Ordnance Works in the north. An estimated 35,000 people were killed and 60,000 injured during the bombing at Nagasaki.Of those killed, 23,200-28,200 were Japanese munitions workers, 2,000 were Korean slave laborers, and 150 were Japanese soldiers.

Because of the delays in the mission and the inoperative fuel transfer pump,Bockscar did not have sufficient fuel to reach the emergency landing field at Iwo Jima, so Sweeney flew the aircraft to Okinawa. Arriving there, he circled for 20 minutes trying to contact the control tower for landing clearance, finally concluding that his radio was faulty. Critically low on fuel, Bockscar barely made it to the runway at Yontan Airfield on Okinawa. With only enough fuel for one landing attempt, Sweeney and Albury brought Bockscar in at 150 miles per hour (240 km/h) instead of the normal 120 miles per hour (190 km/h), firing distress flares to alert the field of the uncleared landing. The number two engine died from fuel starvation as Bockscar began its final approach. Touching the runway hard, the heavy B-29 slewed left and towards a row of parked B-24 bombers before the pilots managed to regain control. The B-29’s reversible propellers were insufficient to slow the aircraft adequately, and with both pilots standing on the brakes, Bockscar made a swerving 90-degree turn at the end of the runway to avoid running off the runway. A second engine died from fuel exhaustion by the time the plane came to a stop. The flight engineer later measured fuel in the tanks and concluded that less than five minutes total remained.

crew

After the war, Bockscar returned to the United States in November 1945 and served with the 509th at Roswell Army Air Field, New Mexico. It was nominally assigned to the Operation Crossroads task force,Operation Crossroads was a pair of nuclear weapon tests conducted by the United States at Bikini Atoll in mid-1946.

1280px-Operation_Crossroads_Baker_Edit

But there are no records indicating that it deployed for the tests. In August 1946, it was assigned to the 4105th Army Air Force Unit at Davis-Monthan Army Air Field, Arizona, for storage.

At Davis-Monthan it was placed on display as the aircraft that bombed Nagasaki, but in the markings of The Great Artiste. In September 1946, title was passed to the Air Force Museum (now the National Museum of the United States Air Force) at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio. The aircraft was flown to the Museum on 26 September 1961,and its original markings were restored.Bockscar is now on permanent display at the National Museum of the United States Air Force, Dayton, Ohio. This display, a primary exhibit in the Museum’s Air Power gallery, includes a replica of a Fat Man bomb and signage that states that it was “The aircraft that ended WWII”.

In 2005, a short documentary was made about Charles Sweeney’s recollections of the Nagasaki mission aboard Bockscar, including details of the mission preparation, titled “Nagasaki: The Commander’s Voice

This last bit is not the take away from the history of the Bockscar, although I don’t subscribe to conspiracy theories, it wouldn’t be hard to come up with one here.

Looking at all the twists in the story.

  1. The crew was changed from the Great Artiste to Bockscar
  2. The intended target had been Kokura
  3. After the war it was part of a task force conducting nuclear tests(although not actively)
  4. Mix in the fact that it served at the Roswell Army field

One could be forgiven for believing that the UFO that allegedly crashed in Roswell was maybe there to observe the ‘weapon of mass destruction’ that was based there.

RoswellDailyRecordJuly8,1947

I don’t really believe this is the case but it does make an intriguing theory and story.

Foo Fighters WW2 UFO’s

Most of us will have heard of the Rock band Foo Fighters, Dave Grohl’s(from former Nirvana fame) musical ensemble.

Foo_Fighters_Live_21

But that is not the Foo Fighters I am talking about, although Dave Grohl did take his name from this WWII phenomenon.

foo81

Ever since mankind figured out that the world isn’t a flat plate but a globe and ever since mankind have discovered that the stars in the skies are all solar systems to an extend, we have wondered if there was other life out there, and just because the world was at war didn’t mean that these questions disappeared. In fact the fascination with extra terrestiral life probably became greater.

The term foo fighter was used by Allied aircraft pilots in World War II to describe
various mysterious aerial phenomena seen in the skies over both the European and
Pacific Theater of Operations.  The first sightings occurred in November 1944, when
pilots flying over Germany reported seeing fast-moving round glowing objects
following their aircraft.  The objects were described as fiery and glowing red, white, or
orange.  Some pilots described them as resembling Christmas tree lights and fireballs, as
big as 300 feet and as small as 1 foot. 
The foo fighters could not be outmaneuvered or
shot down.Later on they were also spotted in the skies all over the globe.

 

The military took the sightings seriously, suspecting that the mysterious sightings might
be secret German weapons, but further investigation revealed that German and Japanese
pilots had reported similar sightings.  During war time the term foo fighters became
commonly used to mean any UFO sighting.  Many people have speculated
extraterrestrial involvement.  During WWII, these experiences were taken very
seriously.  Accounts of these cases were presented to heavyweight scientists, such as
David Griggs, Luis Alvarez and H.P. Robertson.  The phenomenon was never
explained.  Most of the information about the issue has never been released by military
intelligence.

r0300268

Though “foo fighter” initially described a type of UFO reported and named by the U.S. 415th Night Fighter Squadron, the term was also commonly used to mean any UFO sighting from that period.

The nonsense word “foo” emerged in popular culture during the early 1930s, first being used by cartoonist Bill Holman who peppered his Smokey Stover fireman cartoon strips with “foo” signs and puns.

smokeystover1

The term foo was borrowed from Bill Holman’s Smokey Stover by a radar operator in the 415th Night Fighter Squadron, Donald J. Meiers, who it is agreed by most 415th members gave the foo fighters their name. Meiers was from Chicago and was an avid reader of Bill Holman’s strip which was run daily in the Chicago Tribune. Smokey Stover’s catch phrase was “where there’s foo, there’s fire”. In a mission debriefing on the evening November 27, 1944, Fritz Ringwald, the unit’s S-2 Intelligence Officer, stated that Meiers and Ed Schleuter had sighted a red ball of fire that appeared to chase them through a variety of high-speed maneuvers. Fritz said that Meiers was extremely agitated and had a copy of the comic strip tucked in his back pocket. He pulled it out and slammed it down on Fritz’s desk and said, “… it was another one of those fuckin’ foo fighters!” and stormed out of the debriefing room.

According to Fritz Ringwald, because of the lack of a better name, it stuck. And this was originally what the men of the 415th started calling these incidents: “Fuckin’ Foo Fighters.” In December 1944, a press correspondent from the Associated Press in Paris, Bob Wilson, was sent to the 415th at their base outside of Dijon, France to investigate this story It was at this time that the term was cleaned up to just “foo fighters”. The unit commander, Capt. Harold Augsperger, also decided to shorten the term to foo fighters in the unit’s historical data

The first sightings occurred in November 1944, when pilots flying over Germany by night reported seeing fast-moving round glowing objects following their aircraft. The objects were variously described as fiery, and glowing red, white, or orange. Some pilots described them as resembling Christmas tree lights and reported that they seemed to toy with the aircraft, making wild turns before simply vanishing. Pilots and aircrew reported that the objects flew formation with their aircraft and behaved as if under intelligent control, but never displayed hostile behavior. However, they could not be outmaneuvered or shot down. The phenomenon was so widespread that the lights earned a name – in the European Theater of Operations they were often called “kraut fireballs” but for the most part called “foo-fighters”. The military took the sightings seriously, suspecting that the mysterious sightings might be secret German weapons, but further investigation revealed that German and Japanese pilots had reported similar sightings.[9]

On 13 December 1944, the Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force in Paris issued a press release, which was featured in the New York Times the next day, officially describing the phenomenon as a “new German weapon”. Follow-up stories, using the term “Foo Fighters”, appeared in the New York Herald Tribune and the British Daily Telegraph.

papare

In its 15 January 1945 edition Time magazine carried a story entitled “Foo-Fighter”, in which it reported that the “balls of fire” had been following USAAF night fighters for over a month, and that the pilots had named it the “foo-fighter”. According to Time, descriptions of the phenomena varied, but the pilots agreed that the mysterious lights followed their aircraft closely at high speed. Some scientists at the time rationalized the sightings as an illusion probably caused by afterimages of dazzle caused by flak bursts, while others suggested St. Elmo’s Fire as an explanation.

The “balls of fire” phenomenon reported from the Pacific Theater of Operations differed somewhat from the foo fighters reported from Europe; the “ball of fire” resembled a large burning sphere which “just hung in the sky”, though it was reported to sometimes follow aircraft. On one occasion, the gunner of a B-29 aircraft managed to hit one with gunfire, causing it to break up into several large pieces which fell on buildings below and set them on fire. There was speculation that the phenomena could be related to the Japanese fire balloons’ campaign. As with the European foo fighters, no aircraft was reported as having been attacked by a “ball of fire”

 

The postwar Robertson Panel cited foo fighter reports, noting that their behavior did not appear to be threatening, and mentioned possible explanations, for instance that they were electrostatic phenomena similar to St. Elmo’s fire, electromagnetic phenomena, or simply reflections of light from ice crystals. The Panel’s report suggested that “If the term “flying saucers” had been popular in 1943–1945, these objects would have been so labeled.

There are several theories that disclaim the UFO theories but I would like to believe that the truth might be out there.

 

Kamikaze-Divine wind

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Kamikaze translates into divine wind and refers to a typhoon that destroyed an enemy fleet in the 13th century.

In the middle of the 13th century, Mongol fleets sailed to attack a helpless Japan. As the invaders approached the Japanese coast, terrific winds arose, smashed the Mongol ships and thwarted the attack. This “Divine Wind” – what the Japanese referred to as the “kamikaze” – saved Japan.

MokoShurai

Seven hundred years later, as the American war machine moved slowly but inexorably across the Pacific towards their home islands, the Japanese again called upon the kamikaze for salvation. This time the “Divine Wind” took the form of suicidal pilots who sacrificed their lives in order to assure that their explosive-laden planes hit their targets. It became the Japanese weapon that the American Navy feared most

These pilots really thought it was an honor to die for the emperor, who was still considered a divine entity. Apparently Kamikaze pilots would only considered a hero if 50 people died through their action.

img_kamikaze_fallingThere are quite some similarities between the Kamikazes and suicide bombers nowadays both had some delusional notion of what a hero is.In warfare this must be undoubtedly one of the scariest and difficult,even impossible, tactics to prepare for. Human instinct is to survive at all cost but how do you fight an enemy who does not adhere to that instinct and is willing to sacrifice himself for a ‘higher’ cause.

After the Japanese had attacked Pearl Harbor in 1941 they were defeated in many important battles in which they lost ships and airplanes.  During 1943 and 1944 Allied forces were moving towards Japan quickly. They pushed the Japanese back to the Philippines, a group of islands that were very important for them. They were located between the oil fields of Southeast Asia and Japan.

Kamikaze aircraft were essentially pilot-guided explosive missiles, purpose-built or converted from conventional aircraft. Pilots would attempt to crash their aircraft into enemy ships in what was called a “body attack” (体当たり; 体当り, taiatari) in planes laden with some combination of explosives, bombs, torpedoes and full fuel tanks; accuracy was much better than a conventional attack, the payload and explosion larger. A kamikaze could sustain damage which would disable a conventional attacker and still achieve its objective. The goal of crippling or destroying large numbers of Allied ships, particularly aircraft carriers, was considered by the Empire of Japan to be a just reason for sacrificing pilots and aircraft

These attacks, which began in October 1944, followed several critical military defeats for the Japanese. They had long since lost aerial dominance due to outdated aircraft and the loss of experienced pilots. On a macroeconomic scale, Japan suffered from a diminishing capacity for war, and a rapidly declining industrial capacity relative to the Allies. Despite these problems, the Japanese government expressed its reluctance to surrender. In combination, these factors led to the use of kamikaze tactics as Allied forces advanced towards the Japanese home islands.

While the term “kamikaze” usually refers to the aerial strikes, it has also been applied to various other suicide attacks. The Japanese military also used or made plans for non-aerial Japanese Special Attack Units, including those involving submarines, human torpedoes, speedboats and divers.

The tradition of death instead of defeat, capture, and perceived shame was deeply entrenched in Japanese military culture. It was one of the primary traditions in the samurai life and the Bushido code: loyalty and honour until death, as the Japanese perceived it.

During this phase of the war the Japanese were not able to build as many ships and warplanes as they were losing in the battles. They did not have the industries that the Americans did. The Japanese admirals realized that it was almost impossible to win against the Allied troops with few aircraft and not enough good pilots.

For this reason the Japanese emperor decided to form a special attack unit. 24 pilots volunteered for the mission. It was their task to crash into Allied ships and kill as many sailors as possible. The first kamikaze attack took place in October 1944. A Japanese plane flew straight into an Australian navy ship, killing 30 sailors.

Australia1NP

The kamikaze attacks were successful at first. Many pilots were trained to become kamikaze. The Japanese built cheap planes with older engines for these missions. Pilots usually dropped their landing gear after takeoff so that it could be used by other planes.

The Allied troops were afraid of these kamikaze attacks because they could not defend themselves against them. By the end of the war over 2500 Japanese pilots had sacrificed their lives. About 5000 American and Allied sailors were killed in the attacks.

Captain Motoharu Okamura, in charge of the Tateyama Base in Tokyo, as well as the 341st Air Group Home, was, according to some sources, the first officer to officially propose kamikaze attack tactics. He arranged, with his superiors, the first investigations on the plausibility and mechanisms of intentional suicide attacks on 15 June 1944.

In August 1944, it was announced by the Domei news agency that a flight instructor named Takeo Tagata was training pilots in Taiwan for suicide missions.

One source claims that the first kamikaze mission occurred on 13 September 1944. A group of pilots from the army’s 31st Fighter Squadron on Negros Island decided to launch a suicide attack the following morning.First Lieutenant Takeshi Kosai and a sergeant were selected. Two 100 kg (220 lb) bombs were attached to two fighters, and the pilots took off before dawn, planning to crash into carriers. They never returned, but there is no record of an enemy plane hitting an Allied ship that day.

Rear Admiral Masafumi Arima, the commander of the 26th Air Flotilla (part of the 11th Air Fleet), is sometimes credited with inventing the kamikaze tactic.

Arima_Masafumi

Arima personally led an attack by about 100 Yokosuka D4Y Suisei (“Judy”) dive bombers against a large Essex-class aircraft carrier, USS Franklin, near Leyte Gulf, on (or about, accounts vary) 15 October 1944.

Arima was killed and part of a plane hit Franklin. The Japanese high command and propagandists seized on Arima’s example: He was promoted posthumously to Admiral and was given official credit for making the first kamikaze attack. However, it is not clear that this was a planned suicide attack, and official Japanese accounts of Arima’s attack bore little resemblance to the actual events.

On 17 October 1944, Allied forces assaulted Suluan Island, beginning the Battle of Leyte Gulf.The Imperial Japanese Navy’s 1st Air Fleet, based at Manila, was assigned the task of assisting the Japanese ships which would attempt to destroy Allied forces in Leyte Gulf. However, the 1st Air Fleet at that time only had 40 aircraft: 34 A6M Zero carrier-based fighters, three Nakajima B6N Tenzan torpedo bombers, one Mitsubishi G4M (“Betty”) and two Yokosuka P1Y Ginga  land-based bombers, and one additional reconnaissance plane.

The task facing the Japanese air forces seemed impossible. The 1st Air Fleet commandant, Vice Admiral Takijirō Ōnishi, decided to form a suicide offensive force, the Special Attack Unit.

Takijiro_Onishi

In a meeting at Mabalacat Airfield (known to the U.S. military as Clark Air Base) near Manila, on 19 October, Onishi told officers of the 201st Flying Group headquarters: “I don’t think there would be any other certain way to carry out the operation [to hold the Philippines], than to put a 250 kg bomb on a Zero and let it crash into a U.S. carrier, in order to disable her for a week.”

Commander Asaiki Tamai asked a group of 23 talented student pilots, all of whom he had trained, to volunteer for the special attack force. All of the pilots raised both of their hands, volunteering to join the operation. Later, Tamai asked Lieutenant Yukio Seki to command the special attack force.

Lt_Yukio_Seki_in_flightgear

Seki is said to have closed his eyes, lowered his head and thought for 10 seconds, before saying: “Please do appoint me to the post.” Seki became the 24th kamikaze pilot to be chosen. However, Seki later said: “Japan’s future is bleak if it is forced to kill one of its best pilots.” and “I am not going on this mission for the Emperor or for the Empire… I am going because I was ordered to.”

Several suicide attacks, carried out during the invasion of Leyte, by Japanese pilots from units other than the Special Attack Force, have been described as the first kamikaze attack. Early on 21 October, a Japanese aircraft, possibly an Aichi D3A dive-bomber or a Mitsubishi Ki-51  deliberately crashed into the foremast of the heavy cruiser HMAS Australia.

The attack killed 30 personnel, including the cruiser’s captain, Emile Dechaineux, and wounded 64, including the Australian force commander, Commodore John Collins.The Australian official history of the war claimed that this was the first kamikaze attack on an Allied ship, although other sources disagree because it was not a planned attack by a member of the Special Attack Force, but was most likely to have been undertaken on the pilot’s own initiative.

The sinking of the ocean tug USS Sonoma on 24 October is listed in some sources as the first ship lost to a kamikaze strike, but the attack occurred before 25 October, and the aircraft used, a Mitsubishi G4M, was not flown by the original four Special Attack Squadrons.

USS_Sonoma_(ATO-12)

On 25 October 1944, during the Battle of Leyte Gulf, the Kamikaze Special Attack Force carried out its first mission. Five Zeros, led by Seki, and escorted to the target by leading Japanese ace Hiroyoshi Nishizawa, attacked several escort carriers. One Zero attempted to hit the bridge of USS Kitkun Bay but instead exploded on the port catwalk and cartwheeled into the sea. Two others dived at USS Fanshaw Bay but were destroyed by anti-aircraft fire. The last two ran at USS White Plains. One, under heavy fire and trailing smoke, aborted the attempt on White Plains and instead banked toward USS St. Lo, plowing into the flight deck. Its bomb caused fires that resulted in the bomb magazine exploding, sinking the carrier. By day’s end on 26 October, 55 kamikazes from the Special Attack Force had also damaged the large escort carriers USS Sangamon, Suwannee which had also been struck by a kamikaze at 08:04 forward of its aft elevator on 25 October,Santee, and the smaller escorts USS White Plains, Kalinin Bay, and Kitkun Bay. In total, seven carriers were hit, as well as 40 other ships (five sunk, 23 heavily damaged, and 12 moderately damaged).

Early successes – such as the sinking of St. Lo – were followed by an immediate expansion of the program, and over the next few months over 2,000 planes made such attacks.

When Japan began to be subject to intense strategic bombing by B-29s, the Japanese military attempted to use suicide attacks against this threat. During the northern hemisphere winter of 1944–45, the IJAAF formed the 47th Air Regiment, also known as the Shinten Special Unit (Shinten Seiku Tai) at Narimasu Airfield, Nerima, Tokyo, to defend the Tokyo Metropolitan Area. The unit was equipped with Nakajima Ki-44 Shoki fighters, with which they were to ram United States Army Air Forces  B-29s in their attacks on Japan. However, this proved much less successful and practical since an airplane is a much faster, more maneuverable, and smaller target than a warship. The B-29 also had formidable defensive weaponry, so suicide attacks against the plane demanded considerable piloting skill to be successful, which worked against the very purpose of using expendable pilots. Even encouraging capable pilots to bail out before impact was ineffective because vital personnel were often lost when they mistimed their exits and were killed as a result.

On 11 March, the U.S. carrier USS Randolph was hit and moderately damaged at Ulithi Atoll, in the Caroline Islands, by a kamikaze that had flown almost 4,000 km (2,500 mi) from Japan, in a mission called Operation Tan No. 2. On 20 March, the submarine USS Devilfish survived a hit from an aircraft, just off Japan.

Purpose-built kamikaze planes, as opposed to converted fighters and dive-bombers, were also being constructed. Ensign Mitsuo Ohta had suggested that piloted glider bombs, carried within range of targets by a mother plane, should be developed. The First Naval Air Technical Bureau (Kugisho), in Yokosuka, refined Ohta’s idea. Yokosuka MXY7 Ohka rocket planes, launched from bombers, were first deployed in kamikaze attacks from March 1945. U.S. personnel gave them the derisive nickname “Baka Bombs” (baka is Japanese for “idiot” or “stupid”).

rocket_plane

The Nakajima Ki-115 Tsurugi was a simple, easily built propeller aircraft with a wooden airframe which used engines from existing stocks. Its non-retractable landing gear was jettisoned shortly after take-off for a suicide mission, and re-used.

Nakajima_Ki-115

During 1945, the Japanese military began stockpiling hundreds of Tsurugi, other aircraft, Ohkas, and suicide boats, for use against Allied forces expected to invade Japan. The invasion never happened, and few were ever used.

In early 1945 U.S. Navy aviator Commander John Thach,

Thach,_John

already famous for developing effective aerial tactics against the Japanese such as the Thach Weave, developed a defensive strategy against kamikazes called the “big blue blanket” to establish Allied air supremacy well away from the carrier force. This recommended combat air patrols (CAP) which were larger and operated further from the carriers than before, a line of picket destroyers and destroyer escorts at least 80 km (50 mi) from the main body of the fleet to provide earlier radar interception, and improved coordination between fighter direction officers on carriers. This plan also called for round-the-clock fighter patrols over Allied fleets, though the U.S. Navy had cut back training of fighter pilots so there were not enough Navy pilots available to counter the kamikaze threat. A final element included intensive fighter sweeps over Japanese airfields, and bombing of Japanese runways, using delayed action bombs to make repairs more difficult.

Late in 1944 the British Pacific Fleet (BPF) used the good high-altitude performance of their Supermarine Seafires (naval version of the Spitfire) on combat air patrol duties. Seafires were heavily involved in countering the kamikaze attacks during the Iwo Jima landings and beyond. The Seafires’ best day was 15 August 1945, shooting down eight attacking aircraft for a single loss.

Seafire_1

Allied pilots were experienced and better-trained, and flew superior aircraft, making the poorly trained kamikaze pilots easy targets. The U.S. Fast Carrier Task Force alone could bring over 1,000 fighter aircraft into play. Allied pilots became adept at destroying enemy aircraft before they struck ships.

Allied gunners had begun to develop techniques to negate kamikaze attacks. Light rapid fire anti-aircraft weapons such as the 40 mm Bofors and 20 mm Oerlikon autocannons were highly effective,but heavy anti-aircraft guns such as the 5″/38 caliber gun (127 mm) had the punch to blow kamikazes out of the air, which was preferable since even a heavily damaged kamikaze could complete its mission.

The Ohkas with their high speed presented a very difficult problem for anti-aircraft fire, since their velocity made fire control extremely difficult.

Plane ohka

 

By 1945, large numbers of anti-aircraft shells with radio frequency proximity fuzes, on average seven times more effective than regular shells, became available, and the USN recommended their use against kamikaze attacks.

The peak in kamikaze attacks came during the period of April–June 1945, at the Battle of Okinawa. On 6 April 1945, waves of planes made hundreds of attacks in Operation Kikusui (“floating chrysanthemums”).At Okinawa, kamikaze attacks focused at first on Allied destroyers on picket duty, and then on the carriers in the middle of the fleet. Suicide attacks by planes or boats at Okinawa sank or put out of action at least 30 U.S. warships,and at least three U.S. merchant ships, along with some from other Allied forces. The attacks expended 1,465 planes. Many warships of all classes were damaged, some severely, but no aircraft carriers, battleships or cruisers were sunk by kamikaze at Okinawa. Most of the ships lost were destroyers or smaller vessels, especially those on picket duty.The destroyer USS Laffey earned the nickname “The Ship That Would Not Die” after surviving six kamikaze attacks and four bomb hits during this battle. So many destroyers were attacked that one ship’s crew, considering the aircraft carriers to be more important targets, erected a large sign with an arrow which read “That way to the carriers”

_Laffey_DD-724

U.S. carriers, with their wooden flight decks, appeared to suffer more damage from kamikaze hits than the reinforced steel-decked carriers from the British Pacific Fleet. US carriers also suffered considerably heavier casualties from kamikaze strikes; for instance, 389 men were killed in one attack on USS Bunker Hill, greater than the combined number of fatalities suffered on all six Royal Navy armoured carriers from all forms of attack during the entire war (Bunker Hill and Franklin were both hit while conducting operations with fully fueled and armed aircraft spotted on deck for takeoff, an extremely vulnerable state for any carrier). Eight kamikaze hits on five British carriers resulted in only 20 deaths while a combined total of 15 bomb hits, most of 500 kg weight or greater, and one torpedo hit on four carriers caused 193 fatal casualties earlier in the war – striking proof of the protective value of the armoured flight deck.

Bunker_Hill_(CV-17)

The resilience of well-armoured vessels was shown on 4 May, just after 11:30, when there was a wave of suicide attacks against the BPF. One Japanese plane made a steep dive from “a great height” at the carrier HMS Formidable and was engaged by AA guns.

HMS_Formidable_

Although it was hit by gunfire, a bomb from the kamikaze detonated on the flight deck, making a crater 3 m (9.8 ft) long, 0.6 m (2 ft) wide and 0.6 m (2 ft) deep. A long steel splinter speared down, through the hangar deck and the main boiler room (where it ruptured a steam line), before coming to rest in a fuel tank near the aircraft park, where it started a major fire. Eight personnel were killed and 47 were wounded. One Corsair and 10 Avengers were destroyed.

However, the fires were gradually brought under control, and the crater in the deck was repaired with concrete and steel plate. By 17:00, Corsairs were able to land. On 9 May, Formidable was again damaged by a kamikaze, as were the carrier HMS Victorious and the battleship HMS Howe. The British were able to clear the flight deck and resume flight operations in just hours, while their American counterparts took a few days or even months, as observed by a USN liaison officer on HMS Indefatigable who commented: “When a kamikaze hits a U.S. carrier it means 6 months of repair at Pearl Harbor. When a kamikaze hits a Limey carrier it’s just a case of “Sweepers, man your brooms.””

Sometimes twin-engined aircraft were used in planned kamikaze attacks. For example, Mitsubishi Ki-67 Hiryū (“Peggy”) medium bombers, based on Formosa, undertook kamikaze attacks on Allied forces off Okinawa.

Rear Admiral Matome Ugaki, the second in command of the Combined Pacific Fleet, directed the last official kamikaze attack, sending “Judys” from the 701st Air Group against the Allied fleet at Okinawa on 15 August 1945.

Ugaki_Matome

The number of ships sunk is a matter of debate. According to a wartime Japanese propaganda announcement, the missions sank 81 ships and damaged 195, and according to a Japanese tally, kamikaze attacks accounted for up to 80% of the U.S. losses in the final phase of the war in the Pacific. In a 2004 book, World War II, the historians Wilmott, Cross and Messenger stated that more than 70 U.S. vessels were “sunk or damaged beyond repair” by kamikazes.

According to a U.S Air Force webpage:Approximately 2,800 Kamikaze attackers sank 34 Navy ships, damaged 368 others, killed 4,900 sailors, and wounded over 4,800. Despite radar detection and cuing, airborne interception, attrition, and massive anti-aircraft barrages, 14 percent of Kamikazes survived to score a hit on a ship; nearly 8.5 percent of all ships hit by Kamikazes sank.

Even though is not related it is noteworthy to mention that more German citizens died due to suicide during the last days of the war,approximately 10,000, then Japanese Kamikaze suicide pilots.

Operation Tidal Wave

When I refer to Operation Tidal wave I am referring to the 1st Operation Tidal wave and not  Operation Tidal Wave II which is a US-led coalition military operation commenced on or about 21 October 2015 against oil transport, refining and distribution facilities and infrastructure under the control of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.

Operation Tidal wave was to become one of the costliest mistakes made by the Allied Forces during WWII.

Prior to World War II, the U.S. Army Air Corps (Army Air Forces as of June 20, 1941) developed a doctrine of high-altitude, precision, daylight, massed bombing of selected enemy military and industrial targets. Combined with the Royal Air Force’s concentration on mass air attacks on industrial areas at night by 1943, this doctrine evolved into the Combined Bomber Offense featuring “around-the-clock” bombing of German targets.

Petroleum production and distribution systems were among the highest priority targets, and perhaps the most inviting of these was the concentration of oil refineries at Ploesti, Rumania, which according to Allied intelligence estimates, produced as much as one third of Germany’s liquid fuel requirements. One of the most heavily defended targets in Europe, Ploesti lay outside the range of Allied bombers from England but could be reached by Consolidated B-24 Liberator bombers from the Middle East or North Africa.

Operation Tidal Wave was an air attack by bombers of the United States Army Air Forces (USAAF) based in Libya and Southern Italy on nine oil refineries around Ploiești, Romania on 1 August 1943, during World War II. It was a strategic bombing mission and part of the “oil campaign” to deny petroleum-based fuel to the Axis.The mission resulted in “no curtailment of overall product output”

This mission was one of the costliest for the USAAF in the European Theater, with 53 aircraft and 660 aircrew men lost. It was the second-worst loss ever suffered by the USAAF on a single mission, and its date was later referred to as “Black Sunday”. Five Medals of Honor and numerous Distinguished Service Crosses were awarded to Operation Tidal Wave crew members.

Romania had been a major power in the oil industry since the 1800s. It was one of the largest producers in Europe and Ploiesti was a major part of that production. (see Bombing of Romania in World War II).The Ploiești oil refineries provided about 30% of all Axis oil production

In June 1942, 13 B-24 Liberators of the “Halverson project” (HALPRO) attacked Ploiești.

_B-24

Though damage was small, Germany responded by putting strong anti-aircraft defenses around Ploiești. Luftwaffe General Alfred Gerstenberg built one of the heaviest and best-integrated air defense networks in Europe. The defenses included several hundred large-caliber 88mm guns and 10.5 cm FlaK 38 anti-aircraft guns, and many more small-caliber guns.

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The latter were concealed in haystacks, railroad cars, and mock buildings.The Luftwaffe had three fighter groups within flight range of Ploiești 52 (Bf 109 fighters and Bf 110 night fighters, and some Romanian IAR-80 fighters).

 

Gerstenberg also counted on warnings from the Luftwaffe signals intelligence station in Athens, which monitored Allied preparations as far away as North Africa

The Ninth Air Force (98th and 376th Bombardment Groups) was responsible for the overall conduct of the raid, and the partially formed Eighth Air Force provided three additional bomb groups (44th, 93rd, and 389th). All the bombers employed were  B-24 Liberators.

Smart,_Jacob_E

Colonel Jacob E. Smart planned the operation, based on HALPRO’s experiences. HALPRO had encountered minimal air defenses in its raid; so the planners decided Tidal Wave would be executed by day, and that the attacking bombers would approach at low altitude to avoid detection by German radar. Training included extensive review of detailed sand table models, practice raids over a mock-up of the target in the Libyan desert and practical exercises over a number of secondary targets in July to prove the viability of such a low- level strike. The bombers to be used were re-equipped with bomb-bay fuel tanks to increase their fuel capacity to 3,100 gallons.

The operation was to consist of 178 bombers with a total of 1,751 aircrew, one of the largest commitments of American heavy bombers and crewmen up to that time The planes were to fly from airfields near Benghazi, Libya. They were to cross the Mediterranean and the Adriatic Sea, pass near the island of Corfu, cross over the Pindus Mountains in Albania, cross southern Yugoslavia, enter southwestern Romania, and turn east toward Ploiești. Reaching Ploiești, they were to locate pre-determined checkpoints, approach their targets from the north, and strike all targets simultaneously.

For political reasons, the Allied planners decided to avoid the city of Ploiești, so that it would not be bombed by accident.

Early on the morning of 1 August 1943, the five groups comprising the strike force began lifting off from their home air fields around Benghazi. Large amounts of dust kicked up during take-off caused limited visibility and strained engines already carrying the burden of large bomb loads and additional fuel. These conditions contributed to the loss of one aircraft during take-off, but 177 of the planned 178 aircraft departed safely.

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The formation reached the Adriatic Sea without further incident; however aircraft #28 “Wongo Wongo” belonging to the 376th Bombardment Group (the lead group, about 40 B-24s) and piloted by Lt. Brian Flavelle began to fly erratically before plunging into the sea due to unknown causes. Lt. Guy Iovine—a personal friend of Flavelle and piloting aircraft #23 Desert Lilly—descended from the formation in order to look for survivors, narrowly missing aircraft Brewery Wagon piloted by Lt. John Palm. No survivors were seen, and due to the additional weight of fuel, Iovine was unable to regain altitude to rejoin the formation and resume course to Ploiești.

The resulting confusion was compounded by the inability to regain cohesion due to strict radio silence maintained as per mission guidance. Ten other aircrews opted to return to friendly air fields following the incident and those aircraft which remained faced the 9,000 ft (2,700 m) climb over the Pindus mountains, which were shrouded in cloud cover. Although all five groups made the climb around 11,000 ft (3,400 m), the 376th and 93rd, using high power settings, began to lose the trailing formations, causing variations in speed and time which disrupted the careful synchronization of the group attacks deemed so important by Smart. The possible threat to successful execution was deemed to be of secondary concern to the operational security of the mission by senior leadership. The American leaders were unaware that while their intentions were not precisely known, their presence had been duly noted by the Germans. Although the need to rebuild their formations was clear and well within the contingency for breaking radio silence, the strike would proceed without correction, a judgment that would later prove costly.

Although now well strung out on approach to Piteşti, all five groups would make the navigational check point 65 mi (105 km) from Ploiești. At Câmpina, the 389th Bomb Group departed as planned for its separate but synchronous approach to the mission target. Continuing from Piteşti, Col. Keith K. Compton and Gen. Ent made a navigational judgment that would prove especially costly. At Târgovişte, halfway to the next check point at Floreşti, Compton followed the incorrect railway line for his turn toward Ploiești, setting his group and Lt. Col. Addison Baker’s 93rd Bomb Group on a course for Bucharest. In the process, Ent and Compton went against the advice of their airplane’s navigator and the Halverson Project (HALPRO) veteran Cpt. Harold Wicklund. Now in the face of an impending disaster, many crews chose to break radio silence and draw attention to the navigational error. Meanwhile, both groups flew headlong into Gerstenberg’s extensive air defenses around the Bucharest area, which they would now face in addition to those still awaiting them around Ploiești.

Lt. Col. Baker and his co-pilot Maj. John L. Jerstad, who had already flown a full tour of duty while stationed in England, would now succumb to the effects of the extensive air defense array.

Continuing through the intense defensive barrage, damage to their aircraft forced Baker and Jerstad to jettison their bomb load in order to maintain lead of the formation over their target at the Columbia Aquila refinery. Despite heavy losses by the 93rd, Baker and Jerstad maintained course and, once clear, began to climb away. Realizing the aircraft was no longer controllable, both men maintained the climb in order to gain time for the crew to abandon the aircraft. Although none survived, both Baker and Jerstad would be posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for maintaining their successful approach to Columbia Aquila and their efforts to save the crew of Hell’s Wench.

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Maj. Ramsay D. Potts flying The Duchess and Maj. George S. Brown aboard Queenie, encountering heavy smoke over Columbia Aquila, would take two additional elements of the 93rd and successfully drop their payloads over the Astra Romana, Unirea Orion, and Columbia Aquila refineries. In all, the 93rd lost 11 aircraft over their targets in Ploiești. One of the bombers, Jose Carioca,was shot down by a Romanian IAR 80 fighter, which went into a half roll and moved swiftly under the B-24 upside down, raking its belly with bullets. The bomber crashed into Ploiești Women’s Prison. The three-story building exploded in flames, and only 40 women survived the disaster. There were no survivors from Jose Carioca crew.

Air defenses were heavy over the 376th’s target (Romana Americana), and Gen. Ent instructed Compton to attack “targets of opportunity.” Most of the 376th B-24s bombed the Steaua Română refinery at Câmpina from the east, and five headed directly into the already smoldering conflagration over the Concordia Vega refinery.At Câmpina, air defenses on overlooking hills were able to fire down into the formation, and IAR 80 aircraft downed 376th aircraft

With the 93rd and 376th engaged over the target area, Col. John R. Kane of the 98th Bomb Group and Col. Leon W. Johnson of the 44th Bomb Group made their prescribed turn at Floresti and proceeded to their respective targets at the Asta Romana and Columbia Aquila refineries.

Both groups would find German and Romanian defenses on full alert and faced the full effects of now raging oil fires, heavy smoke, secondary explosions, and delayed-fuse bombs dropped by Baker’s 93rd Bomb Group on their earlier run. Both Kane and Johnson’s approach, parallel to the Floresti-to-Ploiești railway had the unfortunate distinction of encountering Gerstenberg’s disguised flak train. At tree-top level, around 50 ft (15 m) above the ground, the 98th would find themselves to the left and the 44th on the right. The advantage, however, would rest with the 98th and 44th, whose gunners quickly responded to the threat, disabling the locomotive and killing multiple air defense crews.

With the effects of the 93rd and 376th’s runs causing difficulties locating and bombing their primary targets, both Kane and Johnson did not deviate from their intended targets, taking heavy losses in the process. Their low approach even enabled gunners to engage in continued ground suppression of air defense crews from directly above their targets. For their leadership and heroism, both were awarded the Medal of Honor. Lt. Col. James T. Posey took 21 of the 44th’s aircraft on a separate assigned attack run on the Creditul Minier refinery just south of Ploiești. Although air defense batteries had already heavily engaged the 93rd, Posey was fully received by the same emplacements. Maintaining a continued low-level approach into the target area took some of the still heavily laden aircraft through tall grass and damage was caused by low-level obstructions. Posey and his aircraft—equipped with heavier 1,000 lb (450 kg) bombs—managed to successfully find their marks at Creditul Minier, without loss to the formation.

The last TIDAL WAVE attack bombed the Steaua Română refinery (8 mi (13 km) northwest of Ploiești):at Câmpina. The 389th attack led by Col. Jack Wood was as rehearsed at Benghazi.

The damage caused by the 376th and 389th attacks heavily damaged the refinery, which did not resume production for the duration of the war.The 389th lost four aircraft over the target area, including B-24 Ole Kickapoo flown by 2nd Lt. Lloyd Herbert Hughes.

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After hits to Ole Kickapoo only 30 feet over the target area, the detonation of previously dropped bombs had ignited fuel leaking from the B-24. Hughes maintained course for bombardier 2nd Lt. John A. McLoughlin to bomb, and the B-24 subsequently crash-landed in a river bed.187 Hughes (who posthumously received the Medal of Honor) and five crewmembers were killed, four survived the crash but died of injuries, and two gunners became prisoners of war.

On their way over Bulgaria, the B-24s were intercepted by three fighter groups, 10 Bf 109s from Karlovo, four Avia B-534s from Bozhurishte and 10 Avia B-534s from Vrashdebna (Sofia) airport.

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The pilots Sub-lieutenant Peter Bochev (five victories), Captain Tschudomir Toplodolski (four victories), Lieutenant Stoyan Stoyanov (five victories) and Sublieutenant Hristo Krastev (one victory) gained their first kills for the Bulgarian Air Force of the war. The new fighter aces were decorated afterwards by Tsar Boris III of Bulgaria personally with the Order of Bravery, the first time in 25 years. Iron Crosses were awarded a month later from the German embassy.

 

Only 88 B-24s returned to Libya, of which 55 had battle damage. Losses included 44 to air defenses and additional B-24s that ditched in the Mediterranean or were interned (e.g. a few landed in neutral Turkey). Some were diverted (e.g. to the RAF airfield on Cyprus). One B-24 with 365 bullet holes in it landed in Libya 14 hours after departing; its survival was due to the light armament of the Bulgarian Avia B-534 (4 x 7.92mm machine guns).

310 aircrewmen were killed, 108 were captured by the Axis, and 78 were interned in Turkey, 4 were MIA in Yugoslovia and taken in by Tito’s partisans.76 Three of the five Medals of Honor (the most for any single air action in history) were awarded posthumously.:Allied assessment of the attack estimated a loss of 40% of the refining capacity at the Ploiești refineries,although some refineries were largely untouched. Most of the damage was repaired within weeks, after which the net output of fuel was greater than before the raid.Circa September, the Enemy Oil Committee appraisal of Ploiești bomb damage indicated “no curtailment of overall product output“as many of the refineries had been operating previously below maximum capacity.

Despite the extreme heroism of the airmen and their determination to press the mission home, the results of Operation TIDAL WAVE were less than expected. TIDALWAVE targeted nine major refineries that produced some 8,595,000 tons of oil annually, about 90 percent of all Rumanian oil production, and the attack temporarily eliminated about 3,925,000 tons, roughly 46 percent of total annual production at Ploesti. Three refineries lost 100 percent of production. Unfortunately, these losses figures were temporary and reflected much less than the planners had hoped for. The Germans proved capable of repairing damage and restoring production quickly, and they had been operating the refineries at less than full capacity, anyway. Ploesti thus had the ability to recover rapidly. The largest and most important target, Astro Romana, was back to full production within a few months while Concordia Vega was operating at 100 percent by mid-September.

The U.S. Army Air Forces never again attempted a low level mission against German air defense.

 

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Lloyd Herbert Hughes
John Louis Jerstad
Leon William Johnson
John Riley Kane