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renowned British Navy test pilot who made history with exploits that advanced Allied fighter power in World War II

Capt Eric Brown IM

Brown in an undated photo courtesy of the Imperial War Museum

Captain Eric Brown, RN, was a heroic and renowned British Navy test pilot  in World War II.  Unlike most test pilots, he died at the ripe old age of 97 on 21 February 2016.

He did so many important things in aviation, established so many records and was involved in critical aviation developments for the Allies in World War Two that his obituary in the New York Times takes up a half a page.

It is a fascinating read and a glimpse into the rapidity of aircraft development caused by the Second World War. You can read it here:

Eric Brown obit in New York Times

Who Can Ask For My Social Security Number?

 

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ID thief at work            

Everyone and their cousin asks for your Social Security Number. But you only need to give your social security number in the following circumstances:

*your are involved in a transaction that requires you or the counter-party to notify the Internal Revenue Service of said transaction. Most financial transactions are reported in some way to Internal Revenue. Therefore, it is legitimate for financial firms to request your social security number.

*state and local governments can legally request your social security number.

*credit card companies and credit reporting agencies

This is part of something called the “Customer Identification Program,” which is part of the so-called “Patriot Act” which eviscerated many of our personal liberties guaranteed by the US Constitution.

If a merchant requests your social security you can say, “NO.” There is no law which prevents them from asking. But remember, you don’t have to give to them.  They can refuse to do business with you at that point so just walk away.

Once someone has your social security number they can steal your identity in a flash.

 (photo courtesy of Huff Post)

Identity Theft and Your Social Security Number Official Publication

Breathtaking photos by NPS from Denali National Park

grassy pass Denali National Park

the view from Grassy Pass in the Fall
Official US National Park Service photo by Jacob W. Frank

NPS Photo Tim Rains

Denali at sunrise

Official US National Park Service photo by Tim Rains

NPS Denali in fall

Denali in fall

Official US National Park Service photo by Tim Rains

denali NPS windswept

 Wind and clouds often whip over Denali

Official US National Park Service photo by Tim Rains

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Denali in winter

Official US National Park Service photo by Jacob W. Frank

Five Years, Four Fronts: The War Years of Georg Grossjohann – A Solid Memoir Lacking Introspection

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Book Review of Five Years, Four Fronts: the War Years of Georg Grossjohann by Georg Grossjohann.

Despite the lack of introspection in this memoir such as “what am I fighting for,” it is a very solid three star memoir by a German soldier. Of particular note, this is the only memoir I have read in which the author had been an enlisted man in the Reichswehr, the 100,000 man army allowed to Germany by the Treaty of Versailles. With the economic uncertainty present in Germany in the 1920s, the army had far more applicants than vacancies and recruiting officers could take their pick of the best men. These men had to sign on for a twelve year hitch. They were intensively trained and highly experienced. Unfortunately, it was these very men who formed the backbone of the Wehrmacht during World War Two. While almost all officers in the German Army began their careers as non-officers, that was just temporary since they were officer-cadets. Few came from the ranks and rose to Major.

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Georg Grossjohann didn’t particularly like being a soldier. He didn’t particularly even want to be a soldier. But he was from Prussia, times were hard, and the natural place for a strong and intelligent lad was the army and so he went. Just before his twelve year hitch was up, and he was itching to get away from the military, Hitler came along and no one could leave the army so he got stuck.

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Experienced NCOs like Grossjohann are worth their weight in gold in any army and because of both his natural intelligence and rational bravery under fire, Grossjohann rose to the rank of Major during the war, winning the Knights Cross. This is very unusual. He didn’t even want to be an officer. Even though he kept his head down and never tooted his own horn, his abilities were clearly recognized and up he went. This is the equivalent of starting in the mail room and becoming a senior vice president of a major corporation.

The memoir has a disarming honesty in many places since the author sees the absurdity of so many things in military life.

Most of the German officers’ memoirs have, in my experience, one thing in common: I rarely discover admission of errors.

In a frank admission about himself he says:

…I do not possess the necessary flexibility of character or intellect to imagine that I saw things in, say, 1940, with the knowledge that I have today. I also cannot bring myself to say that I opposed the Hitler regime, or that I knew it was doomed all along. I was amazed how the number of persons counting themselves as part of the German resistance reached astronomical heights after 1945.

Yet every time one sort of likes the guy, one comes across a passage such as this which is his response to witnessing tens of thousands of Russian POWs standing up to their knees in mud in one of the outdoor enclosures into which they had been herded like cattle to die. They had no shelter from rain or snow or cold. No sanitation. No potable water. No food.

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He says that although these soldiers were enemies he felt their situation was shocking and unspeakably depressing. Here’s the kicker:

Most certainly Army Group (South) headquarters could not be blamed for their misery. We simply lacked the capabilities of sheltering them, and especially lacked the equipment necessary to transport the POWs quickly to better facilities. But I don’t want to conceal that in some places, the treatment of Russian POWs proceeded incompetently!

Well, Major Grossjohann, since almost 3 and 1/2 million Russian POWs died in German captivity, I think we can agree that “the treatment of Russian POWs proceeded incompetently!” Actually, they were intentionally starved to death. The German Army knew all about it since they were the ones who had custody of the POWs before they were shipped off to slave labor camps to die – that is if they lived long enough to be sent to a slave labor camp to die.

And if Army Group South can’t be blamed for their murder by neglect, who can? If there had been the will, Army Group South and the two other Army Groups (Center and North) which controlled German Army formations in the Soviet Union, could have done something. This is why there were honorable German soldiers but there was no such thing as an honorable German Army.

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3 of 1,418 Men aboard HMS Hood Survived

Battle of the Denmark Strait

 

BATTLE OF THE DENMARK STRAIGHT (HU 386) German Battleship BISMARK engaging the British Battlecruiser HMS HOOD as seen from the German Heavy Cruiser PRINZ EUGEN Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205222115
BATTLE OF THE DENMARK STRAIGHT (HU 386) German Battleship BISMARK engaging the British Battlecruiser HMS HOOD as seen from the German Heavy Cruiser PRINZ EUGEN Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205222115

 

BATTLE OF THE DENMARK STRAIGHT (HU 385) A column of smoke rising above the sinking British Battlecruiser HMS HOOD. HMS PRINCE OF WALES in the background. Picture taken from the German Heavy Cruiser PRINZ EUGEN Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205222114
BATTLE OF THE DENMARK STRAIGHT (HU 385) A column of smoke rising above the sinking British Battlecruiser HMS HOOD. HMS PRINCE OF WALES in the background. Picture taken from the German Heavy Cruiser PRINZ EUGEN Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205222114

 

Battlescruiser HMS Hood 1932

HMS Hood circa 1932 (Official US Navy photo in the public domain)

The HMS Hood sunk by the Bismarck and Prinz Eugen in the Battle of the Denmark Strait 24 May 1941. Of the 1,418 crew serving aboard the Hood when she sank, only 3 men survived. They were rescued  approximately 2.5 hours after the sinking by the destroyer HMS Electra.

 

HMS Hood (3)

HMS Hood showing the flag off Honolulu June 1924 (Official US Navy photo in the public domain).

 

HMS Hood was a battlecruiser and not a battleship. The ship was built to an outdated design pre-World War One design. The theory was a battlecruiser would be heavily armed but not heavily armored. Therefore, she would be faster than contemporary battleships and her job would be to scout ahead of the main battle-fleet.

 

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British battleship HMS Iron Duke circa 1915. The booms on the side of the ship were used to hang anti-torpedo netting when the ship was at anchor. (official Royal Navy photograph)

HMS Iron Duke was commissioned in March 1914–that is formally accepted and put into service by the navy. She served as Sir John Jellicoe’s flagship at the Battle of Jutland. Her maximum speed was 24.5 mph/ 39.4 km/h.

Compare this to HMS Hood whose maximum speed was 36 mph/57 km/h. Hence, you can see the difference in speed. Below is a table showing the thickness of the armor of HMS Iron Duke and HMS Hood which accounts for the higher speed of the Hood and also her vulnerability because of her very think deck armor. (The dates reflect when each ship was commissioned)

Hood (May 1920)                                             Iron Duke (March 1914)
Belt: 12–6 in (305–152 mm)                         Belt: 12 in (305 mm)
Deck: 0.75–3 in (19–76 mm)                        Deck: 2.5 in (64 mm)

The Iron Duke (named for the the 1st Duke of Wellington) was withdrawn from active service in the early 1930s. But the Hood (named for Admiral Samuel Hood) was not– even though the Royal Navy was well aware of her light armor. Compare Hood’s armor to a World War Two battleship designed and built for the Royal Navy, HMS Prince of Wales, who was with the Hood at the Battle of the Denmark Strait. Pay special attention to the deck armor of the Prince of Wales:  5 to 6 inches vs Hood: 0.75–3 in.

 

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British Royal Navy battleship HMS Prince of Wales

Prince of Wales commissioned January 1941

Main Belt: 14.7 inches (370 mm)
Deck: 5–6 inches (127–152 mm)

The extra inches of deck armor were critical in a sea battle.

 

HMS HOOD seen between two 16 inch guns (belonging to HMS RODNEY) as she returned from the Mediterranean.

HMS Hood at anchor in Scapa Flow. The photo is framed by two sixteen guns of HMS Rodney. These 16 inchers were the largest naval guns of the Royal Navy in WW Two. Only battleships in the Royal Navy to have sixteen inch guns were HMS Rodney and HMS Nelson, both built in the 1920s. (Photo courtesy of the British Royal Navy)

“South Carolina is too small for a nation and too large for an insane asylum.”

James L. Petigru was a staunch Unionist, a prominent South Carolinian of long and distinguished lineage, a noted attorney, legal scholar, and former Attorney General of South Carolina.

Upon hearing that South Carolina had taken the fatal plunge and seceded from the Union Petigru said:

“South Carolina is too small for a nation and too large for an insane asylum.”

German Uboat Torpedoes

G7a

German Navy torpedo type G7A at the Norwegian Armed Forces Museum in Oslo

(photo by MoRsE)

U-Boats carried two different types of torpedoes.

  1. G7a:  powered by compressed air, which left the trail of bubbles, a popular scene in movies. The torpedo could be set to various distances and various speeds depending on the target. This was done by the First Watch Officer during a surface attack using an aiming device which resembled a pair of binoculars.
  2. the G7a had a speed of 44 knots for distances of 6,000 meters or less. 40 knots for 8,000 meters and a speed of 30 knots for its maximum distance of  14,000 meters. If a torpedo ran out of compressed air before hitting something it just sank.

 

 

  1. G7e:  electrically powered torpedoes, which didn’t leave a trail of bubbles.

Improved versions of these torpedoes were issued to the U-Boat fleet in mid-1942.

Subsequently, a torpedo which homed in on the sounds made by a ship’s propellers was introduced. This acoustic torpedo was a variation of the G7

 

The Allies quickly came up with counter measures.

A variation of the G7 which became famous for being the first acoustic homing torpedo he German Uboatwaffe also used (GNAT=German Navy Acoustic Torpedo, also known as the G7s, T5 and code named Zaunkönig) it had a sinking success rate of about 19%.

Allies immediately introduced effective countermeasures the most successful being “the foxer.”

You can read extensive details here:

www.uboat.net/technical/torpedoes