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The Air War in Europe; World War Two
From Vic G - A bit of history -
First off, many thanks to Dino for forwarding this article to me. Before you read the account below, just a brief introduction from me: We've all seen the graphic depictions on TV of all the aircraft that fly around the U.S., under FAA control, at any one time. Literally thousands of aircraft criss-crossing the U.S., usually without running into one another. Now imagine, if you will (as Rod Serling used to say), that approximate number of aircraft taking off almost simultaneously from an area the size of Delaware and all converging on their targets, under radio silence, without ground control radar to keep them apart, without running into each other.
In the worst of days during those bombing raids over Germany, the Army Air Corps might lose 600 (yes, 600) planes and flight crews to enemy fire from the ground and from the air. That's 600 crews (4500 crewmembers+) PER DAY!! Back in my Navy days, I used to make light of the inordinately large number of colonels in the modern Air Force. A lot of people don't realize that many of those colonels got promoted during WWII when Air Corps losses were so high that just living to the age of 25 made one eligible for promotion to full colonel. I can only imagine how many of the Air Force colonels we knew in the 60's and 70's had spent 25 of their 30 years of service as colonels!
I highly recommend the article below for your reading. Yes, it's long, but not nearly as long as one of those bombing raids. We, the American people, owe a huge debt of gratitude to those who served in the Army Air Corps during WWII. I wonder how many of our younger generations know about these raids... Or care? Vic
THE MIGHTY EIGHTH; Leslie A. Lennox.....Lt./Col. USAF(ret)
Of all the stories that have been written, and movies that have been shown, about the 8th Air Force, very little attention has been given to what was involved in assembling 1200 B-17's and B-24's each day, to get them in formation to carry out a strike against Germany. Certainly showing bombers under attack by fighters, or encountering heavy flak, was a reality, and are interesting to watch. Also, stories about some of the rougher missions make interesting reading. But what was going on over England, each morning, could get just as scary to the crews as the time spent over some of the targets. The planning, and coordination, that had to be accomplished during the night, by the operations planners of each Group, so that the crews could be briefed, was unbelievable. If the planners had failed to do their jobs properly, there would have been a free for all among Bomb Groups, in the skies over England. The rendezvous points, altitude, and times had to be precise, and known by all of the crews, before the Eighth Air Force could get in formation. The success of the planners, in accomplishing their mission, enabled the Eighth Air Force to become the most powerful air armada ever assembled. In my view, how this was accomplished is one of the major untold stories of the war.
I was a pilot in the 95th Bomb Group, in late 1944 and early 1945, and what follows is a typical mission, as I remember it, from a crew member's perspective.
Early in the evening, our Squadron Operations would post the names of the crews that were scheduled to fly the following day. There were two ways we could be notified if the Group had been alerted to fly. One was by means of lights on the front of the orderly room, and the other with raising of colored flags. If a green light was on, the Group was alerted, if a red light was on we would fly, and if a white light was on, the Group would stand down. The light was monitored frequently throughout the evening to learn our status and, normally, we would know before going to bed if we would be flying the next day.
On the morning of a mission, the CQ (charge of quarters) would awaken the crews about four or five o'clock, depending on takeoff time. The questions we always asked were, "What is the fuel load?" and, "What is the bomb load?" If his answer was, "full Tokyo tanks," we knew we would be going deep into Germany. Shortly after being awakened, "6-by" trucks would start shuttling us to the mess hall. We always had all the fresh eggs we could eat, when flying a mission. After breakfast, the trucks carried us to the briefing room. All of the crew members attended the main briefing, and then the Navigators, Bombardiers and Radio operators went to a specialized briefing. At the main briefing, in addition to the target information--anti-aircraft guns, fighter escort and route in--we received a sheet showing our location in the formation, the call signs for the day and all the information we would need to assemble our Group and get into the bomber stream.
After briefing, we got into our flight gear, drew our parachutes and loaded onto the trucks for a ride to our plane. We were now guided by the time on our daily briefing sheet. We started engines at a given time and watched for the airplane we would be flying in formation with to taxi past, and then we would taxi behind him. We were following strict radio silence.
We were now parked, nose to tail around the perimeter, on both sides of the active runway, and extremely vulnerable to a fighter strafing attack. At the designated takeoff time, a green flare would be fired and takeoff would begin. Every thirty seconds an airplane started takeoff roll. We were lined up on the perimeter so that the 12 airplanes of the high squadron would take off first, followed by the lead and then the low squadron.
Each Group had a pattern for the airplanes to fly during climb to assembly altitude. Some would fly a triangle, some a rectangle and our Group flew a circle, using a "Buncher" (a low frequency radio station) which was located on our station. The patterns for each Group fit together like a jig saw puzzle. Unfortunately, strong winds aloft would destroy the integrity of the patterns, and there would be considerable over running of each other's patterns.
Many of our takeoffs were made before daylight, during the winter of '44 and '45, when I was there, so it was not
uncommon to climb through several thousand feet of cloud overcast. Also it was not uncommon to experience one or two near misses while climbing through the clouds, although you would never see the other airplane. You knew you had just had a near miss, when suddenly the airplane would shake violently as it hit the prop wash of another plane. It was a wonderful feeling to break out on top, so you could watch for other planes, to keep from running into each other. To add to the congestion we were creating, the Royal Air Force Lancaster's, Halifax's, and Wimpy would be returning from their night missions, and flying through our formations. Needless to say, pilots had to keep their heads on a swivel and their eyes out of the cockpit.
After take off, the squadron lead would fire a flare every 30 seconds, so that we could keep him located and enable us to get into formation quicker. The color of our Group flare was red-green. The first thing you would see, when breaking out of the clouds, was a sky filled with pyrotechnics, so you had to search the sky for the Group flare, which would identify the lead airplane of your squadron. Once you had it located, you could adjust your pattern to climb more quickly into formation with him. As each airplane pulled into formation, they would also fire a flare, with the lead plane, making it much easier for the following aircraft to keep him in sight. I think most crew members would probably agree that the pyrotechnic show, in the skies over England, in the morning when the Eighth was assembling, was a rare sight to behold.
The order of progression for assembling the Eighth Air Force was to first assemble the Flight elements, the Squadrons, the Groups, the Combat wings, the Divisions and, finally, the Air Force.
As soon as the four Squadron elements were formed, the high, low and second elements would take up their positions on the lead element, to form a Squadron. When the three Squadrons had completed assembly, it was necessary to get into Group formation. This was accomplished by having the three Squadrons arrive over a pre-selected fix at a precise time and heading. The high and low Squadrons were separated from the lead Squadron by 1000 feet and, after getting into Group formation, they would maintain their positions by following the lead Squadron.
Then it was necessary to get into the Combat Wing formation. We were in the 13th Combat Wing, which consisted of three Bomb Groups: the 95th, the 100th and the 390th. Whichever Group was leading the Wing that day, would arrive over a pre-selected point, at a precise time and heading. Thirty seconds later, the second Group would pass that fix, followed by the third Group, thirty seconds later. We were then in Combat Wing formation. The navigators in the lead airplanes had a tremendous responsibility, to ensure that the rendezvous times were strictly adhered to.
There were three Divisions in the Eighth, the 1st, 2nd and 3rd. The 1st and 3rd Divisions consisted of B-17s only, and the 2nd Division was B-24s. The B-24s were faster than the B-17s, but the B-17s could fly higher, therefore, the two were not compatible in formation. As a result the 1st and 3rd Divisions would fly together and the 2nd Division would fly separately.
Now that the Groups were flying in Combat Wing formation, it was necessary to assemble the Divisions. This was usually accomplished at the "coast out"--a city on the coast, selected as the departure point "fix." The Group leader in each Combat Wing knew his assigned position in the Division, and the precise time that he should arrive at the coast out departure point, to assume that position in the Division formation. The lead Group in the Division, which had been selected to lead the Eighth on the mission, would be first over the departure fix. Thirty seconds after the last Group in the first Wing passed that point, the second Wing would fall in trail, and so on, until all Combat Wings were flying in trail and the Division would be formed. One minute later, the lead Group in the other Division would fly over that point, and the Combat Wings in that Division would follow the same procedure to get into formation. When all of its Combat Wings were in trail, the Eighth Air Force B-17
strike force was formed and on its way to the target. At the same time the 2nd Division B-24s were assembling in a similar manner and also departing to their target.
Meanwhile, as the bombers were assembling for their mission, pilots from the Fighter Groups were being briefed on their day's mission. Normally, 600 to 800 P-38's, P-47's, and P-51's would accompany the bombers to provide protection against enemy fighter attacks. Fighter cover was not needed by the bombers until they were penetrating enemy territory. Therefore to help conserve fuel, fighter takeoffs were planned to give them enough time to quickly assemble after takeoff, and climb on course up the bomber stream to the groups they would be covering. The combined strength of the fighters and bombers brought the total number of aircraft participating in a mission to approximately two thousand.
A major problem that presented itself, on each mission, was that the bomber stream was getting too stretched out. It was not uncommon for the headlines in stateside newspapers--in trying to show the strength of our Air Force--to state that the first Group of bombers was bombing Berlin, while the last Group was still over the English Channel. It made great headlines but was a very undesirable situation. It meant that the Groups were out of position, and not keeping the proper separation. Furthermore, it was almost impossible for them to catch up and get back into the desired formation. This made the entire bomber stream more vulnerable to fighter attacks.
Finally, our planners figured out what we were doing wrong. When the first Group departed the coast out fix, it started its climb to what would be the bombing altitude. Then, as each succeeding Group departed that fix, it, too, would start climbing. The problem with this procedure was that, as soon as the first Group started its climb, its true airspeed would start to
increase, and it would encounter different wind velocities. Now it would start to pull away from the Group in back of it, and the "stretch-out" of the bomber stream would begin. By the time the last Group had reached the coast out, to start its climb, the first Group would be leveled off, with a true airspeed approaching 250 miles per hour, and the bomber stream would be really stretching out.
The solution to this problem that had been frustrating the Bomber crews for so long was pretty simple. We would no longer start climbing at the coast out, but instead, at a designated time, all Groups would start climbing, irrespective of position. This meant that we all would have similar true airspeeds and would be influenced by the same winds aloft. That took care of the problem. It was still possible for a Group to be out of position, because of poor timing, but the entire bomber stream wouldn't get all stretched out.
When you consider the way our Air Traffic Control system operates today, and all the facilities at their disposal to guide each individual airplane through the sky to ensure its safety, it's almost unbelievable that we were able to do what we did. To think of launching hundreds of airplanes, in a small airspace, many times in total darkness, loaded with bombs, with complete radio silence, and no control from the ground, and do it successfully day after day, with young air crews, with minimum experience, is absolutely mind boggling.
The accomplishments of the Eighth Air Force have been and will be reviewed by historians from World War II on. There never will be another air armada to compare to it. I feel confident that they will never cease to be amazed by our ability to assemble hundreds of heavy bombers, under the conditions we were confronting, into the devastating strike force we now fondly refer to as, "The Mighty Eighth."
On FreedomSixty-three years ago, Nazi Germany had overrun almost all of Europe and hammered England to the verge of bankruptcy and defeat, and had sunk more than four hundred British ships in their convoys between England and America for food and war materials.
Here are the facts in historical perspective!
Bushido Japan had overrun most of Asia, beginning in 1928, killing millions of civilians throughout China, and impressing millions more as slave labor.
The United States was in an isolationist and pacifist mood, and most Americans and Congress wanted nothing to do with the European war, or the Asian war.
Then along came Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, and in outrage Congress unanimously declared war on Japan, and the following day on Germany, which had not attacked us.
It was a dicey thing. We had few allies.
France was not an ally, for the Vichy government of France aligned with its German occupiers. Germany was not an ally, for it was an enemy, and Hitler intended to set up a Thousand Year Reich in Europe. Japan was not an ally, for it was intent on owning and controlling all of Asia. Japan and Germany had long-term ideas of invading Canada and Mexico, and then the United States over the north and south borders, after they had settled control of Asia and Europe.
America's allies then were England, Ireland, Scotland, Canada, Australia, and Russia, and that was about it. There were no other countries of any size or military significance with the will and ability to contribute much of anything to the effort to defeat Hitler's Germany and Japan, and prevent the global dominance of Nazism. And we had to send millions of tons of arms, munitions, and war supplies to Russia, England, and the Canadians, Aussies, Irish, and Scots, because none of them could produce all they needed for themselves.
All of Europe, from Norway to Italy, except Russia in the east, was already under the Nazi heel.
America was not prepared for war. America had stood down most of its military after World War I and throughout the depression. At the outbreak of World War II there were army soldiers training with broomsticks over their shoulders because they didn't have guns, and using cars with ''tank'' painted on the doors because they didn't have tanks. And a big chunk of our navy had just been sunk and damaged at Pearl Harbor.
Britain had already gone bankrupt, saved only by the donation of $600 million in gold bullion in the Bank of England that was the property of Belgium and was given by Belgium to England to carry on the war when Belgium was overrun by Hitler.
Actually, Belgium surrendered in one day, because it was unable to oppose the German invasion, and the Germans bombed Brussels into rubble the next day anyway, just to prove they could.
Britain had been holding out for two years already in the face of staggering shipping loses and the near-decimation of its air force in the Battle of Britain, and was saved from being overrun by Germany only because Hitler made the mistake of thinking the Brits were a relatively minor threat that could be dealt with later and turning his attention to Russia, at a time when England was on the verge of collapse in the late summer of 1940.
Russia saved America's rear by putting up a desperate fight for two years until the United States got geared up to begin hammering away at Germany.
Russia lost something like 24 million people in the sieges of Stalingrad and Moscow, 90% of them from cold and starvation, mostly civilians, but also more than a million soldiers. More than a million!
Had Russia surrendered, then, Hitler would have been able to focus his entire campaign against the Brits, then America, and the Nazis would have won that war.
Had Hitler not made that mistake and invaded England in 1940 or 1941, instead, there would have been no England for the United States and the Brits to use as a staging ground to prepare an assault on Nazi Europe.
England would not have been able to run its North African campaign to help take a little pressure off Russia while America geared up for battle, and today Europe would very probably be run by the Nazis, the Third Reich, and, isolated and without any allies (not even the Brits).
The United States would very likely have had to cede Asia to the Japanese, who were basically Nazis by another name then, and the world we live in today would be very different and much worse.
I say this to illustrate that turning points in history are often dicey things. And we are now at another one.
There is a very dangerous minority in Islam that either has or wants to have, and may soon have the ability to deliver small nuclear, biological, or chemical weapons, almost anywhere in the world, unless it is prevented from doing so.
France, Germany, and Russia, have been selling these Islamic nations weapons technology at least as recently as 2002, as have North Korea, Syria, and Pakistan paid for with billions of dollars that Saddam Hussein skimmed from the "Oil For Food" program administered by the United Nations with the complicity of Kofi Annan and his son.
The Jihadis, or the militant Muslims, are basically Nazis in Kaffiyahs. They believe that Islam, a radically conservative (definitely not liberal) form of Wahhabi Islam, should own and control the Middle East first, then Europe and then the world. All who do not bow to Allah should be killed, enslaved, or subjugated.
They want to finish the Holocaust, destroy Israel, and purge the world of Jews. This is what they say.
There is also a civil war raging in the Middle East for the most part not a hot war, but a war of ideas. Islam is having its Inquisition and its Reformation today, but it is not yet known which will win the Inquisition, or the Reformation.
If the Inquisition wins, then the Wahhabis, or the Jihadis, will control the Middle East, and the OPEC oil, and the United States, European, and Asian economies the techno-industrial economies will be at the mercy of OPEC.
This is not an OPEC dominated by the well educated and rational Saudis of today, but an OPEC dominated by the Jihadis.
You want gas in your car? You want heating oil next winter? You want jobs? You want the dollar to be worth anything? You better hope the Jihad, the Muslim Inquisition, loses, and the Islamic Reformation wins.
If the Reformation movement wins, that is the moderate Muslims who believe that Islam can respect and tolerate other religions and live in peace with the rest of the world, move out of the 10th Century into the 21st Century. Then the troubles in the Middle East will eventually fade away, and a moderate and prosperous Middle East will emerge.
We have to help the Reformation win, and to do that we have to fight the Inquisition, i.e., the Wahhabi movement, the Jihad, Al Qaeda, the Islamic terrorist movements.
We have to do it somewhere, we cannot do it just anywhere and we cannot do it everywhere at once.
**** We have created a focal point for the battle now at the time and place of our choosing, in IRAQ..... Not in New York, not in London, or Paris, or Berlin, but in Iraq, where we did and are doing two very important things:
(1) We deposed Saddam Hussein and whether Saddam Hussein was directly involved in 9/11 or not is not the issue. It is undisputed that Saddam has been actively supporting the terrorist movement for decades, Saddam is a terrorist. Saddam is, or was, a weapon of mass destruction, who is responsible for the deaths of probably more than a million Iraqis and two million Iranians.
(2) We created a battle, a confrontation, a flash point, with Islamic terrorism in Iraq and we have focused the battle. We are killing bad guys there, and the ones we get there we won't have to get here, or anywhere else. We also have a good shot at creating a democratic, peaceful Iraq, which will be a catalyst for democratic change in the rest of the Middle East, and an outpost for a stabilizing American military presence in the Middle East for as long as it is needed.
The Eurasia could have done this, but they didn't, and they won't. We now know that rather than opposing the rise of the Jihad, the French, Germans, and Russians were selling them arms. We have found more than a million tons of weapons and munitions in Iraq. If Iraq was not a threat to anyone, why did Saddam need a million tons of weapons?
Additionally, Iraq was paying for French, German, and Russian arms with money skimmed from the United Nations Oil for Food Program (supervised by U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan and his son) that was supposed to pay for food, medicine, and education, for Iraqi children.
World War II, the war with the German and Japanese Nazis, really began with a ''whimper'' in 1928.
It did not begin with Pearl Harbor. It began with the Japanese invasion of China. It was at war for fourteen years before America joined in it. It officially ended in 1945 a 17 year war and was followed by another decade of United States occupation in Germany and Japan to get those countries reconstructed and running on their own again a 27 year war.
World War II cost the United States an amount equal to approximately a full year's GNP adjusted for inflation, equal to about $12 trillion dollars.
World War II cost America more than 400,000 killed in action, and nearly 100,000 are still missing in action.
The Iraq war has so far cost the United States about $120 billion, which is roughly what 9/11 cost New York. It has also cost about 1,000 American lives, which is roughly 1/3 of the 3,000 lives that the Jihad snuffed on 9/11.
But the cost of not fighting and winning World War II would have been unimaginably greater, a world that would now be dominated by German and Japanese Nazism.
Americans have a short attention span, now, conditioned I suppose by 30 minute television shows and 2 hour movies in which everything comes out okay. The real world is not like that. It is messy, uncertain, and sometimes bloody and ugly. It always has been, and probably always will be.
If we do this thing in Iraq successfully, it is probable that the Reformation will ultimately prevail. Many Muslims in the Middle East hope it will. We will be there to support it.
It has begun in some countries, Libya, for instance also Dubai and Saudi Arabia. If we fail, the Inquisition will probably prevail, and terrorism from Islam will be with us for all the foreseeable future, because the people of the Inquisition, or Jihad, believe that they are called by Allah to kill all the Infidels, and that death in Jihad is glorious.
The bottom line here is that we will have to deal with Islamic terrorism until we defeat it, whenever that is. It will not go away on its own. It will not go away if we ignore it.
If the United States can create a reasonably democratic and stable Iraq, then we have an ''England'' in the Middle East, a platform from which we can work to help modernize and moderate the Middle East.
The history of the world is the clash between the forces of relative civility and civilization, and the barbarians clamoring at the gates.
The Iraq war is merely another battle in this ancient and never-ending war. And now, for the first time ever, the barbarians are about to get nuclear weapons unless we or somebody does prevent them.
The Iraq war is expensive, and uncertain, yes. But the consequences of not fighting it and winning it will be horrifically greater. We have four options:
1.We can defeat the Jihad now, before it gets nuclear weapons.
2.We can fight the Jihad later, after it gets nuclear weapons (which may be as early as next year, if Iran's progress on nuclear weapons is what Iran claims it is).
3.We can surrender to the Jihad and accept its dominance in the Middle East, now, in Europe in the next few years or decades, and ultimately in America.
4.Or we can stand down now, and pick up the fight later when the Jihad is more widespread and better armed, perhaps after the Jihad has dominated France and Germany and maybe most of the rest of Europe. It will be more dangerous, more expensive, and much bloodier then.
Yes, the Jihadis say that they look forward to an Islamic America. If you oppose this war, I hope you like the idea that your children, or grandchildren, may live in an Islamic America under the Mullahs and the Sharia, an America that resembles Iran today.
We can be defeatist, as many Democrats and liberals, peace activists, and anti-war types seem to be, and concede or surrender to the Jihad or we can do whatever it takes to win this war against them.
The history of the world is the history of civil clashes, or cultural clashes. All wars are about ideas, ideas about what society and civilization should be like and the most determined always win. Those who are willing to be the most ruthless always win.
The pacifists always lose, because the anti-pacifists kill them.
In the 20th Century it was western democracy vs. communism, and before that western democracy vs. Nazism, and before that Western democracy vs. German Imperialism.
Western democracy won, three times, but it wasn't cheap, fun, nice, easy, or quick. Indeed, the wars against German Imperialism (World War I), Nazi Imperialism (World War II), and communist imperialism (the 40-year Cold War that included the Vietnam Battle, commonly called the Vietnam War, but itself a major battle in a larger war) covered almost the entire century.
The first major war of the 21st Century is the war between Western Judeo/Christian Civilization and Wahhabi Islam. It may last a few more years, or most of this century.
It will last until the Wahhabi branch of Islam fades away, or gives up its ambitions for regional and global dominance and Jihad, or until Western Civilization gives in to the Jihad.
Remember, perspective is everything, and America's schools teach too little history. The Cold War lasted from about 1947 to 1989 at least until the Berlin Wall came down in 1989. Forty-two years.
Europe spent the first half of the 19th century fighting Napoleon, and from 1870 to 1945 fighting Germany.
World War II began in 1928, lasted 17 years, plus a ten year occupation and the United States still has troops in Germany and Japan. World War II resulted in the death of more than 50 million people, maybe more than 100 million people, depending on which estimates you accept.
The United States has taken a little more than 1,000 Killed-in-Action (KIA) in Iraq. The United States took more than 4,000 KIA on the morning of June 6, 1944, the first day of the Normandy Invasion to rid Europe of Nazi Imperialism.
In World War II the United States averaged 2,000 KIA a week for four years. Most of the individual battles of World War II lost more Americans than the entire Iraq war has done so far.
But the stakes are at least as high: a world dominated by representative governments with civil rights, human rights, and personal freedoms--or a world dominated by a radical Islamic Wahhabi movement, and by the Jihad, under the Mullahs and the Sharia.
I do not understand why many Americans do not grasp this. Too much television I guess.
Many Americans profess to be in favor of human rights, civil rights, liberty, freedom, and all that. But not for Iraqis, I guess. In America, but nowhere else.
The 300,000 Iraqi bodies in mass graves in Iraq, not our problem. The United States population is about twelve times that of Iraq, so let's multiply 300,000 by twelve. What would you think if there were 3,600,000 American bodies in mass graves in America because of our president? Would you not want another country to help liberate America?
''Peace Activists'' always seem to demonstrate where it's safe and ineffective to do so: in America. Why don't we see peace activists demonstrating in Iran, Syria, Iraq, Sudan, North Korea; in the places in the world that really need peace activism the most?
Are we not supposed to be in favor of human rights, civil rights, democracy, multiculturalism, diversity, etc? Well, if the Jihad wins and wherever the Jihad wins, it is the end of civil rights, human rights, democracy, multiculturalism, diversity, etc.
Americans who oppose the liberation of Iraq are coming down on the side of their own worst enemy. If the Jihad wins, it is the death of ALL OTHER "ISMS" !
Too many Americans JUST DON'T GET IT !
*********(The writer has lived and worked in the Middle East for years and is very involved in Arabic affairs).