In last nights post of the fliegerfaust, I detailed how the Germans tried to create a shoulder fired anti-aircraft weapon during World War II. The Henschel HS 297 was a mounted weapon of similar concept made to be mounted on a turret or vehicle. The weapon consisted of a battery of thirty five 7.29 cm rockets, which could be launched all at once, in groups, or individually. The theory was that it would be effective against low flying aircraft, and that by firing multiple rockets in a “shotgun” like effect, they might just hit something. The Hs 297 was designed to be cheap and easy to produce. However, only 50 were manufactured during the remaining months of the war. The weapon was only used once, against Allied fighter-bombers near Remagen. Like the fliegerfaust, the Hs297 was ineffective against aircraft, it being extremely difficult to shoot down an airplane flying at high speeds with unguided rockets.
Common wisdom tells us that modern artillery and military aviation made use of stone fortifications obsolete. However, the German Flaktürme are a remnant of WWII that looks more like something from the time of the Crusades then age of the Blitzkrieg.
These monumental concrete fortresses served as platforms for batteries of anti-aircraft guns. In order to boost the air defense of German cities, Hitler ordered the building of a series of immense towers throughout the country. Three of these towers were built in Berlin, an additional two in Hamburg and six more in Vienna.
The towers were heavily armed, usually housing eight (four twin) 128 mm guns and thirty-two (eight quad) 20 mm guns. With these guns the towers were capable of rates of fire up to 8000 rounds per minute, with a range of up to 14 km in a full 360-degree field of fire. Each tower complex consisted of two separate towers, one G or gun towers and an L-tower which served as command center. In addition, the towers served as air raid shelters for up to 10,000 people.
The tower walls were 3.5m (!) of reinforced concrete, enough to survive an attack by conventional bombs carried by Allied bombers of the age. Soviet 203mm howitzers merely chipped away the concrete and could never actually penetrate the walls. It was only when supplies and ammo ran out that these towers were surrendered.
The majority of flakturms still stand today. They are too big to effectively dismantle or demolish, plus the space they occupy is worth less than the cost of demolition.
So does Christmas in the trenches of Bastogne (battle of the bulge) work for a Steggy prompt?
Steggy Positivity Week 2017 |
Day 03 (Monday): Firsts
Peggy sunk down in the snow. Her body ached to the core, every muscle and every bone felt as though it were on fire.
It had been days of relentless battle. The Germans had made too much progress, the conditions suited them far too well. But the Allies were putting up a hell of a fight.
It was a cold, crisp morning. Christmas morning, to be exact. Not that it mattered much in the depths of war, the fighting didn’t relent. Although the day had mercifully brought clear skies, which would allow the Allied fighter bombers to help them take back the advantage.
The crunch of approaching footsteps on snow interrupted her train of thought, immediately putting her on edge. She felt stiff, reaching for her gun.
“It’s only me.”
She relaxed at the familiar sound of Steve’s voice.
70 years ago today, Glenn Miller disappeared over the English Channel.
At the height of his big band stardom in 1942 (And having effectively created the decade’s soundtrack), trombonist Glenn Miller enlisted in the US army to form a modernized army band to entertain Allied troops. By 1944, he had been promoted to major, and was leading a 50 piece band for the Air Corps in England. His broadcasts were hailed as one of the greatest morale builders in the European theater.
On December 15 1944, Miller boarded a single motor airplane bound for Paris, never to arrive. It’s believed that the plane was been downed by ice on the wings or a faulty carburetor, and some speculated it fell victim to bombs being jettisoned by Allied bombers returning from an aborted mission (among other less than savory conspiracy theories). Whatever the cause, the plane disappeared without a trace.
The B-17 is one of the iconic allied bombers of WWII. First flown in 1935 and in service up until 1968 in the Brazilian Air Force, the B-17 was a sturdy, heavy lifting power house. Practically anyone familiar with military aviation will be familiar with the B-17, but what many are not aware of are the interesting and unique B-17 modifications that were constructed during WWII. The most notable B-17 modifications were the XB-38, The YB-40 and the C-108.
The XB-38 was a converted B-17 modified to mount 4 Allison V-1710 engines. This replaced the usual complement of 4 Wright R-1820 radial engines.
The XB-38 was built in 1943 and first flew in May of that year. It was capable of a higher top speed (287 mph increased to 327 mph) but saw a decrease in it’s service ceiling(35,600 feet to 29,600 feet.) The project was canceled due to a number of accidents, including a serious engine fire that resulted in the destruction of the only prototype. Additionally, the Allison V-1710 engine was needed for production of the P-38 Lightening and the P-51 Mustang, among others. In 1944 a similar project was started to install inline engines on a B-29 Superfortress. Called the XB-39, the modified aircraft performed well enough, but cost concerns prevented the new design from entering production.
Introduced in 1943, before the P-51 arrived in Europe for high altitude escort missions, the YB-40 was B-17 modified to act as an escort gunship for bomber formations penetrating into the European continent.
While the normal B-17 carried 13 Browning 50 caliber Machine guns, the YB-40 carried, on average, 18 and had room for up to 30 machine guns of various calibers. Some YB-40s even carried guns up to 40mm. Additionally, the YB-40 was full to the brim with ammunition, allowing it to sustain fire for far longer than the normal B-17. The YB-40 carried approximately 10,700 rounds of 50 caliber ammunition with 4,000 rounds stored in the bomb bay.
Compare this with the normal B-17 which carried approximately 2,000 rounds total. The trade off was, of course, speed, and climb rate. The YB-40 was reported to take 48 minutes to climb 20,000 feet while the bombers it was escorting only took 25 minutes to climb to the same altitude.
This drawback, along with the fact that the YB-40 could not keep up with the B-17 formations, especially after they had dropped their bombs, meant that the YB-40 did not see use after the introduction of the P-51 Mustang. Despite its drawbacks, the 25 completed YB-40s flew 48 sorties and shot down 5 German aircraft plus 2 probables. The last recorded YB-40 combat mission was in July of 1943, however, the new turrets developed for the YB-40 such as the Bendix chin turret (pictured below) and the improved “Cheyenne” tail turret proved effective enough to be mounted on late war B-17 bombers.
A single Consolidated B-24 Liberator, called the XB-41, was modified in a similar fashion to act as a long range bomber escort, but it never saw combat.
The XC-108 was a modified B-17 bomber converted to act as a V.I.P. transport for General Douglas MacArthur.
The plane was stripped of arms and armour except for the nose and tail turrets. The interior was converted into a private office for the General. The plane was fitted with a kitchen and living space. After the success of this model, the USAAF, with plenty of obsolete bombers laying around, began looking into ways to convert bombers into transport craft. A number of models were produced including the XC-108A, cargo and troop transport that could carry up to 64 fighting men, and the XC-108B which was converted into a fuel tanker. The B-24 Liberator was similarly modified into a transport known as the Liberator express. This model saw widespread use with 287 aircraft built.
Message me if you have any questions or suggestions for future topics, I love hearing feedback and I will respond as soon as time permits.
Named after Ernst Lindemann, captain of the battleship Bismarck who had perished the year before, this battery was begun at Sangatte, just west of Calais in 1942. The battery was armed with three 40.6 cm “Adolfkanonen” that had been retrieved from Battery Schleswig-Holstein in Poland.
The standard shell for these guns weighed 1.030 kg and could be fired up to 42 km away. A second round weighed 600 kg and could be launched up to 56 km. The 21.5 m long gun barrel had a life of 250-300 shots. The guns themselves were mounted in separate pillboxes, cast in reinforced concrete up to four meters thick. During the two years they were operational and sent over 2200 shots across the Channel to England.
Battery Lindemann had the most powerful guns along the Atlantic wall, which made it a popular target for Allied bombing raids and artillery duels across the English Channel. The Allied bombs had no effect on the large bunkers, but on 4 September 1944 a shell from an English railway gun hit one of the guns. On 21 September 1944 the area was bombed by 4-500 Allied bombers and another of the guns was destroyed. The last gun was put out of action when Canadian soldiers took the battery on 26 September 1944.
In the 1980s the area was used for backfill during construction of the Channel Tunnel. The three massive gun bunkers were partly buried, but it is still possible to see traces of the battery, as well as craters from many Allied shells and bombs.
The first German serviceman killed in the war was killed by the Japanese (China, 1937)
The first American serviceman killed was killed by the Russians (Finland 1940).
80% of Soviet males born in 1923 didn’t survive World War 2
The highest ranking American killed was Lt. Gen. Lesley McNair, killed by the US Army Air Corps.
Between 1939 and 1945 the Allies dropped 3.4 million tons of bombs, An average of about 27,700 tons of bombs each month.
12,000 heavy bombers were shot down in World War 2
2/3 of Allied bomber crews were lost for each plane destroyed
3 or 4 ground men were wounded for each killed
6 bomber crewmen were killed for each one wounded
Over 100,000 Allied bomber crewmen were killed over Europe
There were 433 Medals of Honor awarded during World War 2, 219 of them were given after the receipiant’s death
From 6 June 1944 to 8 May 1945 in Europe the Allies had 200,000 dead and 550,000 wounded
The youngest US serviceman was 12 year old Calvin Graham, USN. He was wounded in combat and given a Dishonorable Discharge for lying about his age. (His benefits were later restored by act of Congress).
At the time of Pearl Harbor, the top US Navy command was called CINCUS (pronounced “sink us”), the shoulder patch of the US Army’s 45th Infantry division was the swastika, and Hitler’s private train was named “Amerika”. All three were soon changed for PR purposes.
Germany lost 110 Division Commanders in combat
40,000 men served on U-Boats during World War 2; 30,000 never returned
More US servicemen died in the Air Corps that the Marine Corps. While completing the required 30 missions, your chance of being killed was 71%. Not that bombers were helpless. A B-17 carried 4 tons of bombs and 1.5 tons of machine gun ammo. The US 8th Air Force shot down 6,098 fighter planes, 1 for every 12,700 shots fired.
Germany’s power grid was much more vulnerable than realized. One estimate is that if just 1% of the bombs dropped on German industry had instead been dropped on power plants, German industry would have collapsed.
Generally speaking, there was no such thing as an average fighter pilot. You were either an ace or a target. For instance, Japanese ace Hiroyoshi Nishizawa shot down over 80 planes. He died while a passenger on a cargo plane.
It was a common practice on fighter planes to load every 5th found with a tracer round to aid in aiming. That was a mistake. The tracers had different ballistics so (at long range) if your tracers were hitting the target, 80% of your rounds were missing. Worse yet, the tracers instantly told your enemy he was under fire and from which direction. Worst of all was the practice of loading a string of tracers at the end of the belt to tell you that you were out of ammo. That was definitely not something you wanted to tell the enemy. Units that stopped using tracers saw their success rate nearly double and their loss rate go down.
When allied armies reached the Rhine, the first thing men did was pee in it. This was pretty universal from the lowest private to Winston Churchill (who made a big show of it) and Gen. Patton (who had himself photographed in the act).
German Me-264 bombers were capable of bombing New York City but it wasn’t worth the effort.
A number of air crewmen died of farts. (ascending to 20,000 ft. in an un-pressurized aircraft causes intestinal gas to expand 300%!)
Germany lost 40-45% of their aircraft during World War 2 to accidents
The Russians destroyed over 500 German aircraft by ramming them in midair (they also sometimes cleared minefields by marching over them). “It takes a brave man not to be a hero in the Red Army”. - Joseph Stalin
The average German officer slot had to be refilled 9.2 times
The US Army had more ships that the US Navy.
The German Air Force had 22 infantry divisions, 2 armor divisions, and 11 paratroop divisions. None of them were capable of airborne operations. The German Army had paratroops who WERE capable of airborne operations.
When the US Army landed in North Africa, among the equipment brought ashore were 3 complete Coca Cola bottling plants.
84 German Generals were executed by Hitler
Among the first “Germans” captured at Normandy were several Koreans. They had been forced to fight for the Japanese Army until they were captured by the Russians and forced to fight for the Russian Army until they were captured by the Germans and forced to fight for the German Army until they were capture by the US Army.
The Graf Spee never sank, The scuttling attempt failed and the ship was bought by the British. On board was Germany’s newest radar system.
One of Japan’s methods of destroying tanks was to bury a very large artillery shell with on ly the nose exposed. When a tank came near the enough a soldier would whack the shell with a hammer. “Lack of weapons is no excuse for defeat.” - Lt. Gen. Mataguchi
Following a massive naval bombardment, 35,000 US and Canadian troops stormed ashore at Kiska. 21 troops were killed in the fire-fight. It would have been worse if there had been Japanese on the island.
The MISS ME was an unarmed Piper Cub. While spotting for US artillery her pilot saw a similar German plane doing the same thing. He dove on the German plane and he and his co-pilot fired their pistols damaging the German plane enough that it had to make a forced landing. Whereupon they landed and took the Germans prisoner. It is unknown where they put them since the MISS ME only had two seats.
Most members of the Waffen SS were not German.
Air attacks caused 1/3 of German Generals’ deaths
By D-Day, the Germans had 1.5 million railway workers operating 988,000 freight cars and used 29,000 per day
The only nation that Germany declared war on was the USA.
During the Japanese attack on Hong Kong, British officers objected to Canadian infantrymen taking up positions in the officer’s mess. No enlisted men allowed!
By D-Day, 35% of all German soldiers had been wounded at least once, 11% twice, 6% three times, 2% four times and 2% more than 4 times
Nuclear physicist Niels Bohr was rescued in the nick of time from German occupied Denmark. While Danish resistance fighters provided covering fire he ran out the back door of his home stopping momentarily to grab a beer bottle full of precious “heavy water”. He finally reached England still clutching the bottle, which contained beer. Perhaps some German drank the heavy water…
Germany lost 136 Generals, which averages out to be 1 dead General every 2 weeks
July 2, 1916 - Battle of the Somme, Day Two: Chaos Behind German Lines, Allies Exploit Successes
Pictured - Troops from the
Worcestershire Regiment, 48th (South Midland) Division, bring up a Lewis gun to deal with German counter-attacks.
The most surprising thing about the Somme battlefield on the morning of July 2, the second day of the battle, was the sense of quiet that pervaded over it. In truth, rifle shots and machine-gun bursts still rattled constantly, and shells whirred loudly overhead. Compared to the week-long cacophony leading up to the battle, however, and the first day itself, the second day was both silent and almost peaceful.
Soldiers’ ears may have been briefly relieved, but their noses were not. Explosive gas, lingering chlorine clouds, and the stench of decomposing flesh from thousands of dead bodies filled the air. Yet their were few enemies to be seen. German artillery remained placid, and British reconnaissance reported little enemy presences. This suited the British just fine; after the first day on the Somme, the troops were not inclined to push on. Lieutenant Siegfried Sassoon spent his day “lying out in front of our trench in the long grass, basking in sunshine where yesterday morning one couldn’t show a finger.” British soldiers reinforced captured trenches, and were relieved to encounter few serious counter-attacks.
Behind the lines, however, was abuzz with activity. Fritz von Below,
the commander of the German Second Army on the Somme, frantically
ordered reserves up to the front. Allied bombers and artillery harried
them as they moved up, though, and many units did not arrive until the
very end of July 2. For now, the Germans could do nothing except try to
hold their lines.
Although they had wreaked havoc on the British the day before, Below now found that his own positions were in serious risk of breaking.
The first day of the Somme was not a spectacular Allied success, but it
was not a horrible failure either, despite its morbid casualty bill.
Haig’s overambitious plan to break through had not worked, certainly.
Yet he remained confident of victory, and expressed “great satisfaction
with the situation along the English front, and had stated they had so
far accomplished more than they had expected.” The BEF’s commander spent
the day visiting the wounded, who he reported were in similar good
spirits. The butcher’s bill of July 1 had certainly left many angry,
though, like one anonymous officer who suggested that the battle had
already been lost “by three minutes”.
The biggest wrench in the Allied plan was that the biggest triumphs had not come north of the river Somme, around Thiepval and the British push, but south of the river, in the French sector. Here the Germans desperately organized scratch companies of rear-area support troops to prevent the line from breaking. German companies fled through French villages, screaming “The front is broken! The French are coming!” French peasants taunted them as they ran past. French artillery smashed in the German second-line in the morning, and the colonial infantry division, singing La Marseillaise, overwhelmed the single division of elite Prussian Guards holding the front. The fight was over in half and hour. The heroic French feats on the Somme prove critics of Allied war planners utterly wrong: in under forty-eight hours, the French army had broken through German lines on an eight-kilometer front! The Allies had not achieved a break-through, but they had gotten a break-in, in an unanticipated one, on the the French front rather than the British.
Heinkel He-177 Greif four-engined heavy bomber, Luftwaffe’s only operational aircraft of this type.
While it only has two propellers, each is actually powered by a couple of Daimler-Benz DB 601 (known as the DB 606) inverted V12 engines joined together to drive a single shaft, this due to an frankly retarded requirement that the aircraft had to be able to dive-bomb, something impossible in a true four-engined configuration.
The engine layout became a nightmare, as it tended to overheat while on the ground so much the engines kept catching fire, earning the bomber the nicknames of Luftwaffenfeuerzeug (“Luftwaffe’s lighter”) or the “Flaming Coffin”.
That characteristic, coupled with the state of the Luftwaffe by 1944, meant that the aircraft could never be fully exploited by the Germans, more often than not getting destroyed on the ground by the increasing allied bombing campaign.
A German leaflet threatening death and destruction to any Allied bomber crew who had the temerity to fly a mission over the Fatherland. Leaflet AI-026-2-44 depicts a flight of seven flying coffins in the air over Germany, each coffin bearing a Christian cross. The text on the front is: Flying Fortresses?
A German Messerschmitt Me 262, the world’s first operational jet fighter, undergoes maintenance. The new aircraft would prove to be a devastating weapon against Allied bomber formations but came too late and in too little numbers to prove decisive. Germany. 1944.