Selasa, 30 Desember 2008
In pure performance, the Zero outclassed the F4F, but with its tough construction and well-trained pilots using appropriate tactics, the Wildcat prevailed. Later in the war, the FM-2, an Eastern-produced version of the Wildcat, flew from escort carriers.
DevelopmentIn 1936, the US Navy published a requirement for a carrier-based fighter, While the Navy first selected the Brewster F2A Buffalo, it authorized Leroy Grumman's Bethpage, Long Island company to build one prototype, the XF4F-2, as an alternative. Experienced builders of carrier planes, the Grumman designers planned the Wildcat for the challenging take-offs and landings on small, heaving carrier decks. With large wings, situated well forward on the fuselage, the plane had very high lift, permitted quick take-offs, slow landings, and excellent maneuverability. But high lift resulted in slower speed, which could only be improved with a more powerful engine.
Grumman test pilot Robert Hall first flew the XF4F-2 in September, 1937. Powered by a Pratt & Whitney R-1830-66 Twin Wasp, rated at 1,050 horsepower, it achieved 290 miles per hour in test flight. The XF4F-2 featured a cantilever wing set midway up the fuselage, all-metal construction, semi-monocoque construction, mill-riveted skin, four .50 caliber machine guns, and main wheels that retracted into the fuselage. Despite the F4F's speedy performance in a 1938 fly-off at Anacostia, the Navy went with the Brewster.
"On its own hook," Grumman improved the design further with the next prototype, the XF4F-3. The "dash Three" had the more powerful R-1830-76 P&W, larger wings, a better machine gun installation, and (ultimately) a higher-mounted tailplane. With a top speed of 335 MPH, it impressed the Navy, and 78 F4F-3 aircraft were ordered in August, 1939.
An export version of the F4F-3, powered by the Wright Cyclone R-1820, served with the British Fleet Air Arm (FAA), as the Martlet Mark I. Other Martlet versions included the Mark II, Mark III, and Mark IV. They served primarily on escort carriers in the Battle of the Atlantic. Among the notable achievements of FAA Martlet pilots was the downing of a four-engine Fw 200 Condor off Gibraltar in September, 1940.
In late 1940 the first F4F-3's arrived with US Navy Squadrons VF-7 and VF-41.
Based on British combat experience, the next version, the XF4F-4, incorporated:
six machine guns (two more than in the F4F-3)
self-sealing gas tanks
These add-ons made the "dash Four" heavier and slower than the previous version, which the pilots did not like. But the brass liked the more compact stowage of the folding wings, which enabled more planes to fit in a carrier.© Osprey Publishing Ltd,www.ospreypublishing.com
CombatBy the time of Pearl Harbor the Navy and the Marine Corps had 131 Wildcats in eleven fighting squadrons. At Wake Island, outnumbered the Marine fliers of VMF-211 fought a doomed battle against the Japanese invaders. Captain Henry T. Elrod of VMF-211, while flying an F4F-3, sank a Japanese destroyer, and subsequently lost his life in the land defense of Wake Island. For his combined actions in defense of Wake Island, he was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor. In February, 1942, the US Navy struck back; carriers Enterprise, Lexington and Yorktown raided forward Japanese bases. When Lexington was sighted and Japanese Betty bombers came after her, Butch O'Hare shot down five of them in minutes. For this skillful heroism, which likely saved the carrier, O'Hare was also awarded the Medal of Honor.
At the Battle of Midway, the four Navy carrier-based Navy squadrons were still adjusting to the "dash Four" Wildcat. Seven F4F's joined the Buffalo-equipped VMF-221, based on Midway Island itself; the first Japanese air raid on the morning of June 4 decimated the squadron, and VMF-221 was out of the battle. Later that morning, the F4F fighting squadrons from Enterprise and Hornet escorted SBD's and TBD's, but did not provide effective cover for the strike planes when they approached the Japanese carriers. The Yorktown fighters, under Jimmy Thach, made more of an impact, and claimed five kills.
These Navy pilots didn't think all that much of the Wildcat. Jimmy Thach, quoted in Eric Bergerud's Fire in the Sky: The Air War in the South Pacific:
In connection with the performance of the Zero fighter, any success we had against the Zero is not due to the performance of the airplane we fly, but is the result of comparatively poor marksmanship on the part of the Japanese, stupid mistakes made by a few of their pilots and superior marksmanship and teamwork on the part of some of our pilots ... The deficiency not only prevents our fighter [the F4F] from properly carrying out its mission but it has had an alarming effect on the morale of the fighter pilots in the Fleet at this time and on those who are going to be sent to the Fleet.
© Osprey Publishing Ltd,www.ospreypublishing.com
Thach and his F4F pilots witnessed the awesome destruction of three carriers in five minutes by the American SBD dive bombers. Later that afternoon, Scott McCuskey and other VF-3 Wildcat pilots flew CAP over Yorktown when the Japanese struck back. Despite claiming 11 Vals, a few got through and crippled the flattop.
GuadalcanalWhen the U.S. forces invaded Guadalcanal in August, 1942, the big prize, the island's strategic importance, was an unfinished Japanese airstrip on the north side of the island. Later that strip would become Henderson Field. Days after the first infantrymen occupied the area, Marine Corps Wildcats landed. In the ensuing weeks and months, those stubby fighters protected the tenuous American hold on the island.
While bloody battles were fought on the ground at Guadalcanal, air power made the difference. Almost every day, Japanese Betty bombers and Zero fighters made the long flight from Rabaul to strike at Guadalcanal. Forewarned by the Coastwatchers and by radar, the F4F's of the "Cactus Air Force" would scramble in time to gain altitude, and then hit the Japanese raiders. In the first few weeks, Major John Smith's VMF-223 flew their Wildcats "into the ground."
The Wildcat was aptly named; it was tricky and unforgiving to fly. Its landing gear was not well-suited to the muddy and dusty conditions of Henderson Field. The controls could be mushy when maneuverability was most needed. There was no way to jettison the hood. The pilot's seat was cramped and too low for optimal visibility. It was not as agile as the Zero. Usually, the F4F pilots tried to zoom through the screening Zeros and go after the bomber directly. With altitude, they could adopt hit-and-run tactics; their rugged construction resisted the Japanese 7.7mm machine gun bullets.
The great Japanese ace Saburo Sakai described the Wildcat in the book Zero:
I had full confidence in my ability to destroy the Grumman and decided to finish off the enemy fighter with only my 7.7mm machine guns. I turned the 20mm. cannon switch to the 'off' position, and closed in. For some strange reason, even after I had poured about five or six hundred rounds of ammunition directly into the Grumman, the airplane did not fall, but kept on flying. I thought this very odd - it had never happened before - and closed the distance between the two airplanes until I could almost reach out and touch the Grumman. To my surprise, the Grumman's rudder and tail were torn to shreds, looking like an old torn piece of rag. With his plane in such condition, no wonder the pilot was unable to continue fighting! ... A Zero which had taken that many bullets would have been a ball of fire by now.
Through 1942 and the relatively less intense first half of 1943, the US Navy and Marine Corps relied, by necessity, on the F4F, and 46 of those pilots 'made ace' in the tough little Grumman. Starting in the sumer of 1943, the Hellcat and Corsair replaced the Wildcat in the Naval services' fighting squadrons.
The Eastern WildcatFrom very early in 1942, it became clear that Grumman would need to focus on the Hellcat program. As part of wartime cooperation, General Motors' Eastern Aircraft Division took over production of the Wildcat. Over the course of the war, Eastern turned out 1,151 FM-1's and 4,777 FM-2's (far more than Grumman ever produced).
At the Battle of Leyte Gulf, FM-2 pilots, flying from escort carriers, distinguished themselves in launching repeated attacks against the Japanese battlewagons, sometimes unarmed!
Top Wildcat Aces
Top USMC and USN Wildcat Aces
John L. Smith
Marion E. Carl
James E. Swett
Lt. Elbert McCuskey (USN)
Robert E. Galer
William P. Marontate
Kenneth D. Frazier
Loren D. Everton
Harold W. Bauer
Stanley W. "Swede" Vejtasa (USN)
Whitey Feightner (USN)
Ralph E. Elliott (USN)
Edward "Butch" O'Hare (USN)
Jumat, 19 Desember 2008
The Bren (from Brno, the Czechoslovak city of design, and Enfield, the location of the British Royal Small Arms Factory), usually called the Bren Gun, was a series of light machine guns adopted by Britain in the 1930s and used in various roles until 1991. While it is best known for its role as the British and Commonwealth forces' primary infantry light machine gun (LMG) in World War II, it was also used in the Korean War and saw service throughout the later half of the 20th century including the Falklands War and the 1991 Gulf War.
The Bren was a modified version of a Czechoslovak-designed light machine gun, the ZB vz.26, which British Army officials had tested during a firearms service competition in the 1930s. The later Bren featured a distinctive curved box magazine, conical flash hider and quick change barrel. In the 1950s the Bren was rebarrelled to accept the 7.62x51mm NATO cartridge. Although fitted with a bipod, it could also be mounted on a tripod or vehicle-mounted.
The Bren was replaced as the section LMG by the L7 general purpose machine gun (GPMG), a heavier belt-fed weapon. This was in turn supplemented in the 1980s by the L86 Light Support Weapon firing the 5.56x45mm NATO round, leaving the Bren only in use on some vehicles.
In general, the Bren was considered a reliable and effective light machine gun, though in North Africa it was reported to jam regularly unless kept very clean and free of sand.
Its 30-round magazine was in practice usually filled with 28 or 29 rounds to prevent jams and avoid wearing out the magazine spring. Care needed to be taken with magazine loading to ensure that the .303 cartridge rims did not overlap the wrong way, causing a jam. The rounds had to be loaded the correct way, each round ahead of the previous round. There was also a 100-round drum magazine available for the Bren used in the anti-aircraft role.
The Bren was officially operated by a two man crew: a gunner to fire and carry the Bren, and a reloader to reload the gun and replace the barrel when it overheated—the latch in front of the magazine was rotated to unlock the barrel so that it could be replaced: the carrying handle was used to grip the hot barrel without risk of burning. The reloader carried extra ammunition and barrels. During wartime, however, the two-man crew concept was abandoned and the weapon was commonly operated by one man, the gunner (as depicted in the picture to the right).
The Bren had an effective range of around 600 yards (550 m) when fired from a prone position with a bipod. Initial versions of the weapon were sometimes considered too accurate because the cone or pattern of fire was extremely concentrated, resulting in multiple hits on one or two enemies, with other enemy soldiers going untouched. More than a few soldiers expressed a preference for worn-out barrels in order to spread the cone of fire among several targets. Later versions of the Bren addressed this issue by providing a wider cone of fire.
For a light machine gun of the interwar and early WWII era the Bren was about average in weight. On long marches in non-operational areas it was often partially disassembled and its parts carried by two soldiers. Writing about his experiences in the infantry during the Burma campaign, the author George MacDonald Fraser stated that one Bren gun was issued to each eight-man section. One soldier would be the gunner and another would be his 'number two', who would carry extra ammunition and the spare barrel and change magazines in combat. The top-mounted magazine vibrated and moved during fire, making the weapon more visible in combat, and many Bren gunners used paint or improvised canvas covers to disguise the prominent magazine.
Realising the need for additional section-level firepower, the British Army endeavoured to issue the Bren in great numbers, with a stated goal of one Bren to every four private soldiers.
On occasion, a Bren gunner would use his weapon on the move supported by a sling, much like an automatic rifle, though generally the Bren was fired from the prone position using the attached bipod. Each British soldier's equipment normally included two magazines for his section's Bren gun, and every man would be trained to fire the Bren in case of an emergency, though these soldiers did not receive a Bren proficiency badge.
The Bren was also used on many vehicles as well, including Universal Carriers to which it gave the alternative name "Bren Gun Carrier", on tanks, and armoured cars. However, on tanks it was not used in the co-axial role but on a pintle mount. The co-axial requirement was filled by the Vickers or the BESA, the latter being another Czech machine gun design adopted by the British.
It was popular with British troops who respected the Bren for its reliability and combat effectiveness. The quality of the materials used would often ensure minimal jamming. When the gun did jam or had some foreign object stuck in it, the operator could adjust the four-position gas regulator to feed more gas to the piston increasing the power to operate the mechanism. It was even said that all problems with the Bren could simply be cleared by hitting the gun, turning the gauge, or doing both. Note that the barrel needed to be unlocked and slid forward slightly to allow the regulator to be turned.
The Bren's direct ancestor, the Czechoslovak ZB vz. 26, was also used in WWII by German forces, including units of the Waffen SS. Many 7.92 mm ZB light machine guns were shipped to China where they were employed first against the Japanese in WWII, and later against UN forces in Korea, including British and Commonwealth units. Some ex-Chinese Czech ZB weapons were also in use in the early stages of the Vietnam conflict.
The production of a 7.92 mm round model for the Far East was made by Inglis of Canada.
With the British Army's adoption of the 7.62 mm NATO cartridge, the Bren was re-designed to 7.62 mm calibre, fitted with a new barrel and magazine, and continued in service. It was redesignated as the L4 Light Machine Gun and continued in British Army service into the 1990s. The change from a rimmed to rimless cartridge and nearly-straight magazine improved feeding considerably, and allowed use of 20-round magazines from the 7.62 mm L1A1 Self Loading Rifle. The conical flash hider was also lost in the transition, being replaced by the slotted type similar to that of the contemporary L1 rifle and L7 General Purpose Machine Gun.
The magazine from the 7.62 mm version of the L4 also fitted the L1A1 however the magazine spring was not up to the task of providing enough upward pressure to feed rounds correctly.
Completion of the move to a 5.56 mm NATO cartridge led to the Bren/L4 being removed from the list of approved weapons and then withdrawn from service. The fact that Bren guns remained in service for so many years with so many different countries in so many wars says much about the quality of the basic design.
The Mark III Bren remains in limited use with the Army Reserve of the Irish Defence Forces, although in most units it has been replaced by the 7.62 mm FN MAG (GPMG). The weapon was popular with the soldiers who fired it (known as Brenners) as it was light, durable and had a reputation for accuracy. The most notable use of the Bren by Irish forces was in the Congo during the 1960s, when the Bren was the regular army's standard section automatic weapon.
Kamis, 11 Desember 2008
So secret was Operation Bodenplatte that the Germans own ground forces were not notified of the large formations of German fighters that would be flying overhead. This resulted in at least one casualty for the JG11 as they were assaulted by friendly fire on their way to Asch. Credit must be given to the German pilots for not breaking radio silence to call off the ground fire. On the return trip several more JG11 and many other German fighters fell to friendly fire before the German guns could be called off.
As the JG11 approached Asch, 8 P47's of the 390th were just forming up over Asch to head out over the Ardennes in search of German armor. As the 390th finished forming up they spotted flak bursts over the Ophoven field. At this same moment Lt Col. John Meyer was just beginning to roll down the runway. He also saw the flak bursts and radioed the tower to inquire; the tower had nothing to report. Heading for Ophoven to investigate, the 390th was surprised to see a large formation of FW190's and Me109's approaching Asch from the northeast at 1500 ft
The 8 P47's of the 390th jettisoned their bombs and external tanks and attacked, causing confusion among the German attackers and breaking up the formation. This turned out to be a key blow to the JG11, without which the mustangs of the 487th may not have so easily taken to the air. The 390th claimed 7 enemy aircraft in this attack taking a loss of only one.
Meanwhile Meyer was lifting off with the rest of the 487th behind him. As he rose from the runway he found himself faced with the oncoming JG11. With a full load of fuel in his fuselage tank, making low altitude maneuvering difficult, and gear still retracting he fired at an oncoming FW190 scoring hits and sending the enemy aircraft crashing into the field. Meyer went on to claim a second Fw190 before the battle was over.
The battle over Asch went on for 30 minutes. 11 pilots of the 487th claimed 23 victories while sustaining no losses, and just three aircraft damaged in the air. I will leave the adventures of each pilot to be told by them through their personal combat logs and memoirs.
The 390th and 487th defended the airbase at Asch so well that only one Mustang was damaged on the ground and no casualties were reported. The actions of the 487th in taking off under fire and performing so well at such a disadvantage earned the unit the only Distinguished Unit Citation given to a fighter squadron in the Northwestern European theater of operation.
The total estimated losses of the JG11 range from 24 to 40. Given the credited victories of the 487th (23), 390th (7), 391st (2), and ground gunners (7) along with at least one aircraft destroyed by friendly flak in route, the number of 40 seems to hold up. However, there was undoubtedly some double counting of victories claimed and some victories that were not confirmed. But more Important then the numbers was the loss of experienced Luftwaffe leaders and pilots. None of JG11's flight leaders returned from this mission
Sabtu, 06 Desember 2008
By 1944, America and her allies in the Pacific War had the ascendancy. In the west, the Japanese were being turned back in Burma and island hopping had isolated Japanese forces in the eastern sector. Combined with the attacks on Iwo Jima, was America’s desire to finally destroy Japan’s merchant fleet so that the Japanese mainland could not be supplied from the food-rich sectors of South East Asia which Japan still had control over. Linked to this, was the destruction of Japan’s remaining industrial base by the bombing of it by the American airforce.
Iwo Jima is a very small Pacific island – just over 4.5 miles long and 2.5 miles wide which lies at the foot of the Bonin chain of islands, south of the main Japanese island of Honshu.
Despite its size, Iwo Jima was considered to have great tactical importance. There were two airfields on the island – under Japan’s control; they could be used by Japanese fighter planes to attack American bombers on their flights to Japan. Under American control, the airfields could be used as emergency landing bases for damaged airplanes in the bombing raids. They could also be used for American fighter planes to escort the bombers, as they needed smaller runways for take-off.
Knowing that the island was of such importance, the Japanese were determined to keep control of it. There were about 22,000 soldiers under the command of Lieutenant-General Kuribayashi. These men had had the time to build strong defensive positions throughout the island but especially in the north. Kuribayashi knew that his options for launching attacks were extremely limited because of the small size of the island. In fact, his options to do anything other than defend ferociously were extremely limited.
America had vast reserves at their disposal. Iwo Jima was ‘softened up’ by bombing raids for more than two months before the actual amphibious assault. For three days prior to the attack, six American battleships had launched a continuous barrage on the island. Within the region, the Americans were led by Admiral Raymond Spruance – though the overall commander of the campaign was Admiral Chester Nimitz. The landing forces were under the command of Lieutenant-General Holland ‘Howling Mad’ Smith. The bulk of the amphibious attack was done by Marines.
The first day of the landings was February 19th, 1945. The Marines took heavy casualties, as the American bombings had not been effective. What it had done was to churn up the beaches and the immediate hinterland and had given the Japanese far more opportunities to find hiding-holes for snipers. It also meant that American movement inland was hindered as the area had been so heavily bombed. A few well placed Japanese snipers could hold up an American advance for hours.
However, the Americans had cut the island in two by the end of the first day – despite taking over 2,400 casualties. On Day 2, the Marines attacked Mount Suribachi. Here they found fanatical Japanese defence and Suribachi was taken on February 23rd after three days of fighting.
Iwo Jima proved a difficult and bloody target to take – frequently the Americans only advanced at several hundred metres per day. By March 11th, the Japanese were trapped in an area around Kitano Point, the island’s most northerly extremity. By March 16th, the island was declared secure and all resistance had ceased by March 26th.
The tiny island had taken America over one month to take. The Marines lost 6,891 men killed and 18,070 wounded. Out of the 22,000 Japanese soldiers on the island, only 212 were taken prisoners. What the battle did show the Americans was how far the Japanese would go to defend their country – a decision that was to influence the use of the atomic bombs in Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
Kamis, 04 Desember 2008
The 7th Armoured Division was a British armoured division which saw service during the Second World War where its exploits made it famous as the Desert Rats.
After the Munich Crisis, the division was formed in Egypt during 1938 as the Mobile Division (Egypt) and its first divisional commander was the acclaimed tank theorist Major-General Sir Percy Hobart. During January 1940, the name of the unit was changed to the 7th Armoured Division. It was during this period that the nickname "Desert Rats" was coined.
The division fought in every major battle during the North African Campaign; later it would land and fight in Sicily and Italy before being withdrawn to the United Kingdom where it prepared to fight in North West Europe. It began landing in Normandy during the afternoon of June 6 and fought its way across Europe ending the war in Kiel and Hamburg, Germany. The 7th Armoured Brigade was detached from the division during early 1942 and fought the Japanese during the fighting in Burma before it returned to the Mediterranean Theatre and fought in Italy.
The unit was meant to be equipped with 220 tanks. However, at the outbreak of war the 'Mobile Force' had only 65. Most of the unit's troops had already been deployed for two years by 1940 and it took as long as three months for mail to arrive.
On 16 February 1940, the Mobile Division became the 7th Armoured Division. The Desert Rat divisional flash was adopted about the same time. It originated from a sketch of a jerboa drawn by the divisional commander's wife after a visit to the Cairo Zoo.
After the Italian declaration of war, the Western Desert Force was massively outnumbered. However, the Italians proved to be no match for the British. The Western Desert Force captured 250,000 Italians in the early engagements in 1940.
During the 1941 Italian retreat, Major-General Richard O'Connor, the Western Desert Force commander, ordered the Desert Rats to travel south of the Jebel Akhdar and cut off the Italian forces at Beda Fomm, while Australian forces pushed the Italians west. As the tanks were unable to travel fast enough, the manoeuvre was led by an ad hoc brigade of armoured cars, towed artillery and infantry which completed the trip in 30 hours, cutting off the Italian retreat and destroying the Italian Tenth Army. Lieutenant-Colonel John Combe led this ad hoc group which was known as "Combe Force" after him.
The Western Desert Force later became HQ XIII Corps, one of the major parts of Eighth Army. The 7th Armoured Division took part in most of the major battles of the North African Campaign, including both Battles of El Alamein (see First Battle of El Alamein and Second Battle of El Alamein for details). It also participated in the destruction of Axis forces in North Africa in Tunisia in 1943.