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Rabu, 26 Maret 2008

James Gavin, "The Jumping General"

The Commanding Officer of the 82nd Airborne Division that jumped in Normandy on D-Day, 1944, Major General James Gavin was raised in the Dooleyville patch outside Mt. Carmel.
"Born in 1907, James Gavin was the son of an unwed Irish immigrant. He was placed in a New York City orphanage at the age of one or two. He was eventually adopted by Martin and Mary Gavin, a Pennsylvania coal-mining family. His youth taught him the discipline and hard work that would pay dividends throughout his life. He enlisted in the US Army at age 17. Showing promise, he was selected for admittance to West Point."
"Gen. Gavin came to be known as the "jumping general" because he parachuted with combat troops during World War II. ...While a paratrooper, he led assaults on Sicily and on Salerno Bay, Italy, in 1943, reaching the rank of brigadier general, and jumped with the parachute assault section of the division on the first night of the Normandy Invasion (June 5-6, 1944). Elements of Gavin's section took the town of Sainte-Mère-Église and guarded river crossings on the flank of the Utah Beach landing area. Gavin was later made major general at age 37, the youngest major general since Gen. George Armstrong Custer. He commanded the 82nd Airborne during operations in The Netherlands and his division later fought in Germany until the German army surrendered in 1945."
"During the 1950's, Gen. Gavin was head of Army research and development. He became a strong opponent of President Dwight D. Eisenhower's defense policy because of its dependence on nuclear weapons. After his retirement in 1958, he served as ambassador to France (1961-63) and became a prominent critic of the Vietnam War. Gen. Gavin was the author of such books as Airborne Warfare (1947), Crisis Now (1968), and the autobiographical On to Berlin (1978)."
Gen. James Gavin died in 1990. The Coal Region is proud to call him one of our own

Senin, 24 Maret 2008

Skip Bombing Techniques

When General Kenney took command of the 5th Air Force, he explained to MacArthur that his primary mission was to take out Japanese air power "until we owned the air over New Guinea. There was no use talking about playing across the street until we got the Nips off our front lawn"

Doing this with Japanese air power dependent on its Navy bringing supplies and reinforcements in a part of the world covered with wide-open sea required that Kenney devise effective ways of bombing Japanese ships, something that had been ineffective using high-altitude bombing. Imagine trying to hit a ship with a bomb dropped from an altitude of 25,000 feet! The standard technique was so ineffective that , for example, less than 1% of of bombs dropped by the 19th Bomb Group's B-17s hit their ship-targets2. The answer: low-altitude bombing. What may sound like an obvious thing was not so easy to effect in real life; the British tried minimal altitude bombing and couldn't make it work. Something more was needed, something was missing.
Discussing the situation with Major Bill Benn, Kenney suggested the idea of 'skip bombing': dropping a bomb such that it literally skipped off the water like a stone, hitting its target from the side. To do this, the bombs, set with delayed fuzes so the plane would have time to clear the detonation, must be dropped at an extremely (dangerously!) low altitude and at the right speed and from the right distance. The bomber for the job must have enough fire power in the nose to defend itself from enemy flak at such low heights. The man for the job of making it work was Major Bill Benn, so Kenney fired him as his assistant and assigned him to command the 63rd Squadron and undertake the perfection of 'skip bombing'.

Major Benn then gathered together some of the best pilots in the 43rd --1st Lt. James T. Murphy, Capt. Ken McCullar, Lt. Folmer "The Swede" Sogaard, Capt. Ed Scott, Lt. Glenn Lewis-- who set about the task. Many hours of practice taught them that approaching the ship from 2,000 ft., then dropping down to an altitude of 200 to 250 ft. (maintaining the air speed of 200 to 250 m.p.h.) and releasing the bomb --equipped with a 4 to 5 second delay fuze-- 60 to 100 ft. away from the target was the way to do it.2 Thanks to the efforts of these men, the percentage of targets hit increased from less than 1% to 72%.

USAAF, US Troops in the air of WW2

In 1940 Henry Stimson, the US Secretary of War, and General George Marshall, the Chief of Staff of the US Army, decided to reorganize the air force. The Air Corps that had been responsible for training and procurement, and the Air Force Combat Command, were merged to become the United States Army Air Forces (USAAF). General Henry Arnold was appointed as commander of the USAAF.

In 1941 the USAAF had 25,000 personnel and about 4,000 aircraft. This included the fighters, Seversky P-35 and Curtis P-36, and the bombers, Lockhead Hudson, Douglas SBD-3 and the B-25A Mitchell.
This USAAF suffered badly during the Japanese Air Force attack on Pearl Harbor on 7th December, 1941. A total of 178 aircraft were destroyed on the ground and 159 were damaged. An estimated 2,403 men were killed and a further 1,778 were injured.
After the United States entered the Second World War aircraft production rose dramatically. In 1942 10,769 fighters and 12,627 bombers were built. The following year this was increased to 23,988 fighters and 29,355 bombers. The peak was reached in 1944 with 38,873 fighters and 35,003 bombers being built.

This included new fighters such as the P-51 Mustang, the Grumman Hellcat, the Chance-Vought Corsair and the Republic Thunderbolt. Dramatic improvements also took place in the production of US bombers such as the B-17 Flying Fortress, the B24 Liberator and the B-29 Stratafortress.
In February 1942, Air Marshall Arthur Harris, the new head of RAF Bomber Command, decided to adopt the Nazi policy of area bombing (known in England as terror bombing) where entire cities and towns were targeted. The US 8th Air Force, based in southern England, played an important role in this strategic bombing offensive.

Whereas the Royal Air Force bombed German cities at night the USAAF under the command of General Carl Spaatz used its B-17 Flying Fortress and B24 Liberator aircraft for precision daylight operations. In August 1943 repeated incendiary attacks on Hamburg caused a firestorm and 50,000 German civilians were killed.
In early 1944 the USAAF introduced the long-range Mustang P-51B fighter. This new aircraft could escort bombers all the way to targets deep inside Nazi Germany. It was an outstanding combat plane and inflicted considerable damage on the Luftwaffe.
Another great success was the Vought Corsair. In the Pacific War it downed 2,149 enemy aircraft during 64,051 missions. This kill ratio is the greatest recorded in the history of air warfare.

Despite objections from Arthur Harris and Carl Spaatz, the bombing campaign changed during the summer of 1944. As part of Operation Overlord, the task of the RAF and the USAAF was to destroy German communications and supply lines in Europe. The destruction of German oil production was also made a priority target and by September, 1944, the Luftwaffe's fuel supply had been reduced to 10,000 tons of octane out of a monthly requirement of 160,000 tons.
By the end of 1944 the Allies had obtained complete air supremacy over Germany and could destroy targets at will. On 3rd February, 1,000 bombers of the USAAF killed an estimated 25,000 people in Berlin.

Arthur Harris now devised Operation Thunderclap, an air raid that would finally break the morale of the German people. To enable maximum impact to take place Harris chose Dresden as his target. This medieval city had not been attacked during the war and was virtually undefended by anti-aircraft guns. On 13th February 1945, 773 Avro Lancaster bombers attacked Dresden. During the next two days the USAAF sent 527 heavy bombers to follow up the RAF attack. The resulting firestorm killed around 135,000 people.
Tokyo , the capital of Japan was a major target of the USAF during the Second World War. The first raids began in late 1944 when the new B-29 Stratafortress heavy bombers began operating from bases in the Mariana Islands.

After the US Army captured Iwo Jima the USAF was able to use the island to increase its bombing attacks on Japan. The large number of Japanese buildings made of wood made it easy for the bombers to create firestorms. On the 9th and 10th March 1945, a raid on Tokyo devastated the city. This was followed by attacks on Nagoya, Kobe, Oska and Yokohama. An estimated 260,000 were killed and 9.2 million left homeless.

By the summer of 1945 the USAAF was ready to mount its final strategic bombing campaign. On 6th August 1945, a B-29 Stratafortress bomber dropped an atom bomb on Hiroshima. Japan continued to fight and a second bomb was dropped on Nagasaki three days later. On 10th August the Japanese surrendered. The Second World War was over.
The peak wartime strength of the USAAF was 75,000 aircraft and 2,411,294 personnel. The total wartime casualties amounted to 115,382. This included the deaths of 52,173 pilots and aircrew

Minggu, 23 Maret 2008

The Flying Tigers, Flew Curtis P-40 Warhawks in China and Burma against the Japanese

The Flying Tigers were a group of American fighter pilots that flew for China in the early part of 1942. Led by a controversial American, Colonel Claire Chennault, they were actually called the "American Volunteer Group" (AVG), and achieved good success in their aerial battles against the Japanese.
They were a relatively small group, and never had more than 100 Curtis Warhawk P-40's (decorated with the famous red shark mouth) available.
But at the time they were flying (early 1942), they were the only Americans doing ANYTHING against the Axis. With an American public reeling from Pearl Harbor and anxious to strike back "NOW!" the Flying Tigers were "the only game in town" at that point. Thus they received a lot of favorable press coverage, from reporters anxious to write about the only only Americans doing ANYTHING ANYWHERE against the Japanese.
The Flying Tigers comprised three squadrons:
1st Squadron - "Adam and Eves"
2nd Squadron - "Panda Bears"
3rd Squadron - "Hell's Angels"

The top aces of the Flying Tigers were: David Lee "Tex" Hill, Robert Neale, and Chuck Older. James Howard flew with the AVG; he later earned the Congressional Medal of Honor while flying P-51s for the 354th Fighter Group (Ninth Air Force) in Europe. Pappy Boyington was another Tiger who went on to greater fame; he had a falling out with Chennault, who gave him a Dishonorable Discharge. The mercurial Boyington never forgave him.

"Colonel" Claire Lee Chennault had been in China since the mid-Thirties; he called himself "Colonel," though his highest rank had been Major. An outspoken advocate of "pursuit" (as fighter planes were called then), in an Army Air Force dominated by strategic bomber theorists, he alienated many of his superiors. But in China, equipped with P-40's, he developed the basic fighter tactics that American pilots would use throughout the war. The Japanese planes used over China were much more maneuverable than his Warhawks, whose advantages were: speed in a dive, superior firepower, and better ability to absorb battle damage. Chennault worked out and documented the appropriate tactics that capitalized on the relative strengths of the American fighters: intercept, make a diving pass, avoid dogfighting, and dive away when in trouble. This remained the fundamental U.S. fighter doctrine throughout the Pacific War. My appreciation of the pilot's bravery and Chennault's tactical skills, however, doesn't change my assessment of the unfortunate and perhaps distracting role they played. The Chinese politics and Chinese-American relations at the time were quite complicated. The titular leader of China, Generalissimo Chiang Kai Chek, of the Kuomintang, was engaged in an endless three-way war: his Kuomintang vs. Mao's Communists vs. Japan. And his own power within the Kuomintang was dependent on balancing various warlords, cliques, and factions. Given the understandable problems posed by this situation, he always wanted more and more American aid, which he and his generals then wanted to use against internal enemies as well as Japan, or perhaps, not to use at all, but to hoard as symbols of their power.

General Chennault, got the Generalissimo's ear, and persuaded him that air power could sweep the Japanese from China, almost effortlessly and painlessly, just a few score American B-17 bombers would do the trick. Thus Chiang Kai Chek, General Chennault, Madame Chiang Kai Chek, and the powerful China Lobby used their combined influence with the American government to push Chennault's air power scheme.
Unfortunately, the adressing real issues in Nationalist China -- development of democratic or at least stable institutions, the rooting out of corruption in the Kuomintang, the training and deployment of useful Chinese infantry forces against Japan, improving the life of the ordinary villagers, etc. -- had no priority with the Generalissimo. Chennault's proposals seemed to offer such a promising way out.

The American government had its own problems, and couldn't scrape up the numbers of bombers envisioned. But keeping China in the war against Japan was understood to be in America's strategic interest (even before Pearl Harbor). What could be offered to Chiang was about 100 Curtis P-40 Warhawk fighter planes with volunteer military pilots to fly them. They fought with distinction, largely in the defense of Burma, and were absorbed into the United States Army Air Force's 23rd Fighter Group in July, 1942.

Jumat, 21 Maret 2008

German standard arms for troop

The standard German infantry weapon was the rifle, originally designed by Mauser and dubbed the Karabiner 98k. This weapon was a 5-shot, bolt-action rifle that actually dated back to 1898 when it was first adopted by the Imperial German Army. It was standard issue for German troops in WWI and, in its modified 98k version (k for kurz, or short), in WWII as well.

While the German standard rifle was a bolt action rifle, the Germans did attempt to design a successful automatic rifle as well. Two designs were submitted for trials in 1941, one by Walther (the maker of the famous PPK and the P38 pistols), and the other was submitted by Mauser. The Mauser design won out over the simpler Walther design and many thousands of the Gewehr 41(W) were made available to the troops on the Eastern Front. After initial use, results were less than satisfactory and as soon as a better design came along (the model 43), production was halted. The way in which German troops used their weapons changed and a rifle with a range of 2000 yards was no longer needed - except for specialists and snipers. Instead, ranges had shrunk down to 400 yards and a less powerful cartridges was needed.

The most common submachine gun used by the Germans during WWII was the MP40. Many times the term "Schmeisser" is used in reference to a German submachine gun. While it is true that the Schmeisser firm did create and produce its own submachine gun design, it was less than perfect and prone to trouble. The MP40 was a not manufactured by Schmeisser, and the weapon was far more simple and had a much more cleaner design, thus it became the standard issue for German troops. An earlier design called MP38 had a similar appearance and saw widespread distribution. A less known model called Erma was also produced as well as a German copy of the British STEN gun, called MP3008. The Waffen-SS used a submachine gun made by Bergman called the MP34 also The next submachine gun design to emerge was the MP43 or Machine Pistol 43 from a design developed in 1943. It fired a less powerful cartridge and had a lighter recoil as a result. However, Hitler, still thinking that troops needed a weapon capable of firing 2000 yards, ordered that production of the weapon not start. The German arms minister, however, knew the need of the new weapon, and changed the name to "Machine Pistol", which is what the Germans called their submachine guns like the US Thompson .45 cal. The trick worked and the weapon went into production at three factories and German troops all over the Eastern Front were clamouring for the new weapon. The whole affair was blown" when a few divisional commanders asked Hitler at a conference when they would get the new weapon. Hitler was furious and ordered an investigation. Luckily for the men that had disobeyed the Fuehrer, the results of the investigation were so encouraging about the new weapon that Hitler changed his mind and announced that henceforward the weapon would be called "Sturmgewehr" or Assault Rifle. This was the world's first ever assault rifle.

The Maschinen Pistole 43's origin was actually the Maschinen Karbiner 42 (MKb 42). It looked a lot similar, and was issued in numbers on the eastern front. Later, this weapon was refined into the Mp43. The Germans, contemplating the sniping value of the Mp43, made a variant, called the Mp43/1. It had scope mounting rails on the iron-sights. The sniper arrangement didn't really work, so, few were made. In late 1943, the MP44 (the most commonly found German assault rifle from the war) was developed, though being basically the same thing as it's predecessor. In 1945, Mauser had begun work on a new type of assault rifle (sometimes called the StG45(M), sometimes the Gerat O6), that used a roller-locking mechanism (like that of the Mp5), which slowed the ROF down to 450 RPS. However, these rifles never made it past the prototype phase.
The Germans settled on two light machine gun designs and used them throughout the war, the MG34 and MG42. The MG42 went on to become the standard design for a light machine gun for NATO and is now used in a more modern form by the US military, and the Australian Army, as the M-60! The new German Army continues to use a less modified but still modernized version of the MG42 as their standard light machine gun.

Kamis, 20 Maret 2008

History of the PPSh-41

Two national catastrophes contributed to the Soviet enthusiasm for submachine guns. The first was the Winter War with Finland in 1939-1940 when the Finns used submachine guns with devastating effect during close combat in the forests, and the second was the German invasion of 1941 when the Russians lost in the retreats both huge quantities of small arms and much of their engineering capability. Only Soviet army could attack a huge divisional size troops with only submachine gun in their hands.

There then arose an urgent demand for a light and simple weapon capable of a high volume of fire, and the answer to this was the PPSh-41, designed by Georgii Shpagin. It was much cheaper and quicker to make than the preceeding models and was finished roughly; the barrel was still chromed, however, and there was never any doubt about the weapon's effectiveness. Stripping was simplicity itself, as the receiver hinged open to reveal the bolt and spring. There was no selector lever on some of the late models, when the gun was capable of only automatic fire, and the magazine was the proved and tried 71 round Suomi drum. The rate of fire was high, but a rudimentary compensator helped to steady the climb of the muzzle.

About 5 million PPSh guns had been made by 1945, and the Soviets adapted their infantry tactics to take full advantage of such huge numbers: often complete units were armed with nothing else. In Russia, the PPSh went out of service in the late 1950s, but it has been supplied in enormous quantities to the satellite and pre-Communist countries, so that it will still be seen for many years. It has been made in various Communist countries, and in Iran, there are a multitude of variants. At one time, the German Army converted a few captured guns to 9mm by changing the barrel and magazine housing. this is just to take space (from "Military Small Arms of the 20th Century" by Ian Hogg and John Weeks)

Selasa, 18 Maret 2008


Prior to the United States' entry into WWII many Americans volunteered for service in the RAF and RCAF. The Battle of Britain raged from May though October 1940. Most Americans followed the battle in the news and knew that in time the US would become involved in the war. The stories of the RAF pilots flying their Hurricanes and Spitfires inspired many to look into joining the RAF. As a result of the Battle of Britain the RAF was short on pilots so a call went out for pilots to replace the RAF's depleted ranks. Of the thousands that volunteered, 244 American pilots were to fly for the Eagle Squadrons; Number 71, 121, and 133 Squadrons of the Royal Air Force Fighter Command.

It was the RAF's policy to pick Englishmen as squadron and flight commanders and 16 of these British pilots served with the Eagle Squadrons. From the time the first Eagle Squadron was formed in September 1940 until all three squadrons were disbanded and incorporated into the USAAF in September 1942, they destroyed 73 1/2 German planes while 77 American and 5 British members were killed.
An organization named the Knight Committee was responsible for recruiting nearly 90 percent of the Eagle Squadron members. The basic requirements for those interested in joining the Eagles were a high school diploma, between 20 and 31 years of age, eyesight that was 20/40 correctable to 20/20, and 300 hours of certified flying time. These requirements were somewhat less strict than those required for service in the USAAF which is the reason some of the pilots joined the RAF or the RCAF in the first place. Most Eagle Squadron pilots did not have a college education or prior military experience. The reason most of the pilots volunteered was quite simply for adventure. Leo Nomis wrote "I think that all of us, with very few exceptions were simply adventurers and romanticists, and perhaps idealists." Robert Patterson noted "I joined the RAF not primarily for patriotic reasons. We all knew a war was coming. I used this as a quick way for some flying excitement." Howard Stickland observed "We were all motivated by the thought of high adventure, the excitment of combat flying, and a desire to help the British." Red McColpin wrote that some "could not take the long routine in the U.S. services to become military pilots, when they were already experienced aviators." Once in England the new recruits were sent to an operational training unit (OTU) for two to four weeks, where they learned to fly Miles Master trainers, Hurricanes, and Spitfires before being posted to a squadron. After OTU some of the men went straight to one of the Eagle Squadrons while others first served with other RAF squadrons before being transferred to an Eagle squadron.