4/5ths German Aircraft Battle of Britain destroyed by Hawker Hurricanes

dogfight (1)

Hawker Hurricanes fly in formation.

According to the history section of the Royal Air Force it’s estimated that Hurricane pilots were credited with four-fifths of all enemy aircraft destroyed in the Battle of Britain.

 

The Hawker Hurricane was the first operational R.A.F. aircraft capable of a top speed in excess of 300 mph. Delivery of the aircraft to front-line squadrons of Fighter Command only began in the fall of 1938. By the outbreak of war in September of 1939, Hawker Aircraft Ltd had built 497 Hurricanes from the intial RAF order of 3,500.

 

From RAF History site:

“A total of 1,715 Hurricanes flew with Fighter Command during the period of the Battle, far in excess of all other British fighters combined. Having entered service a year before the Spitfire, the Hurricane was “half-a-generation” older, and was markedly inferior in terms of speed and climb. However, the Hurricane was a robust, maneuverable aircraft capable of sustaining fearsome combat damage before write-off; and unlike the Spitfire, it was a wholly operational, go-anywhere-do-anything fighter by July 1940. It is estimated that its pilots were credited with four-fifths of all enemy aircraft destroyed in the period July-October 1940.”

 

hugh_dowding

Air Chief Marshal Sir Hugh Dowding (right) was the head of RAF Fighter Command during the Battle of Britain, and the main architect of its success along with his deputy, Air vice-marshal Sir Keith Park. 

Park, a New Zealander, commanded 11 Group RAF Fighter Command

air vice marshal eqivalet to 2 star major general USA, UK,

 

US Bomber Emerging From Smoke After Raid

B-24 Liberator “the Sandman” Emerging From Smoke During raid On Ploesti Oil Field in Romania; THEN ALLIED TO NAZI GERMANY.
THIS FIELD SUPPLIED IMMENSE AMOUNTS OF PETROLEUM PRODUCTS TO WEHRMACHT 

The_Sandman_a_B-24_Liberator,_piloted_by_Robert_Sternfels

Aug. 1, 1943. The Sandman,  a US Army Air Force B-24 Liberator from the 98th Bomb Group of the 9th Air Force, piloted by Major Robert Sternfels, shown emerging from a cloud of smoke as it barely clears the stacks of the Astra Romana refinery during the disastrous American raid on the Romania oil fields at Ploesti.

(caption and photo courtesy of the National Museum of the US Air Force. The photo was taken by Jerry J. Joswick, the only survivor of the 16 cameramen of the operation)

 

Unfortunately, Not the Most Successful Action of the War

Since US Army Air Force doctrine stipulated high-altitude precision bombing, pilots had little experience in low-level missions. And this was a low-level mission.  Several months prior to the attack, aircrews and aircraft were sent to Libya and trained day after day in flying fifty feet off the ground or lower while in formation.

Coming in at low altitude was the key tactical element in the plan of attack on the refineries and associated facilities at the oil fields in Ploesti, Romania. These oil fields were Nazi Germany’s main source of oil, supplying almost 40% of the total. As such, Ploesti was the most heavily defended target against air attack in the entire Nazi empire. (Romania was a staunch ally of Nazi Germany).

The USAAF suffered terrible losses. Of the 177 B-24s on the raid, 53 were lost, most on the raid, some of which crashed and a handful interned in neutral Turkey. Official US Air Force casualty figures are as follows:  310 aircrewmen were killed, 108 were captured by the Axis, and 78 were interned in Turkey.

 

Despite the extreme heroism of the airmen and their determination to press the mission home, the results… were less than expected…. the attack temporarily eliminated about 3,925,000 tons (of petroleum production), roughly 46 percent of total annual production at Ploesti.

Unfortunately…these losses were temporary and much less than the planners had hoped for. The Germans proved capable of repairing damage and restoring production quickly, and they had been operating the refineries at less than full capacity, anyway.

Ploesti thus had the ability to recover rapidly. The largest and most important target, Astro Romana, was back to full production within a few months…”

 

Source: Fact sheet on low level bombing of Ploesti August 1943, US Air Force Historical Office. You can find the entire fact sheet here:

http://www.afhso.af.mil/topics/factsheets/factsheet.asp?id=17993

Minefield. You are in it. We are not.

Important to stay up to date on Notices to Mariners in World War Two so you don’t stray into a minefield

hms_highlanderh44

   Aerial photograph of British destroyer HMS Highlander (H44) underway. Rayner spent a number of months as her CO.

D.A. Rayner was an officer in the Royal Navy Volunteer Reserve during World War Two. They wore wavy stripes on their uniforms and were called, with condescension, the “the Wavy Navy”. There was also the Royal Naval Reserve consisting of masters and mates of merchant ships. It was said that the RNVR were gentlemen trying to become officers and the RNR were officers trying to become gentlemen.


Royal Navy corvette HMS Primrose

although not designed to operate in the vicious weather of the North Atlantic these ships could be built quickly. Convoy escorts were desperately needed so hundreds were built. 

 

Rayner compiled an outstanding record in World War Two becoming the only RNVR officer to command a Royal Navy escort group in the Atlantic. His memoir, Escort, is rich in stories of his life at sea in the war, each one more amusing than the one before. Escort is one of the best naval memoirs I have ever read. It is beautifully written (the English really know how to write English), funny, very sad at times, and brutally honest. I certainly give it five stars. Escort is truly a must read.

The war has only recently begun and Rayner is commanding an anti-submarine trawler patrolling off the coast of England. He is lost in a dense fog. There was no radar then. Out of the fog looms a Royal Navy destroyer. Rayner orders the signalman to use his Aldis Lamp (Morse Lamp to Americans) and make to the destroyer: “Can you tell me where am I?” Comes the reply: “Regret have not known you long enough to venture an opinion.” Rayner is puzzled till he discovers the signalman had actually made the message: “Can you tell me what I am?”

+

Though only 30, Rayner is quickly given command of a corvette, a small escort vessel used in the North Atlantic. Because of the shortage of escort ships, he has been compelled to put to sea before his charts are up to date. As he is putting into port one day, Rayner sees a merchantman sinking off his starboard bow. He asks the escort commander for leave to rescue the crew. Comes the reply, “Proceed, but your attention is called to Notices to Mariners Number______.”

Rayner rescues a boatload of survivors and sees another boatload. Comes a signal from the escort commander, “Your attention is called to Notices to Mariners_____.” This annoys Rayner but given his charts aren’t up to date, he doesn’t want to ask the escort commander what he means so he waits until another corvette steams between him and the escort commander. Rayner makes inquiry of what Notices to Mariners_____means. Comes the reply, “Minefield. You are in it. We are not.”

Voice of German High Command Surrenders Another Beautiful Day Comes To A Close

Dittmar surrenders

Voice of German High Command

Lt. General Kurt Dittmar, the voice of the German High Command, after surrendering to troops of the US 30th Infantry Division. Copyright by Life Magazine.

After Lt. General Kurt Dittmar broadcast his evening German Armed Forces High Command communique, German national radio played “Another Beautiful Day Comes to a Close” as their sign-off song.

The German communique was broadcast at midnight German time. German-speaking stenographers working for various news agencies including UPI and AP took down the communique, translated it into English, and “moved it on the wire.”

The German armed forces communique was usually printed in the morning New York Times and other major newspapers along with the communiques from all the other belligerent powers. If you have a subscription to the Times you can go online to their archives and type in “communique” and a whole lot of them will turn up.

Capture of Lt. Gen. Kurt Dittmar of Magdeburg

from official info of US 30th Infantry Division

“On April 25th, 1945 Lt. Gen. Kurt von Dittmar, German official army news commentator, together with Major Pluskat, Dittmar’s son and two orderlies crossed the Eble River. They crossed at Magdeburg in the zone of the 117th’s Third Battalion [of the 30th Infantry Divison]. Dittmar, the German General Staff radio spokesman, crossed in a boat under a white flag.

He had come, he said, to arrange aid for German wounded on the east bank of the Elbe. It was then discovered he commanded no troops and traveled to the west without the knowledge of the German commander in that sector. Dittmar was then offered to surrender but he refused.

On his way back to recross the river he changed his mind and surrendered along with his son and Major Pluskat, an artillery officer.”

info on the reverse of the photograph above

official history US 30th Infantry Old Hickory Division

 

Here are several communiques from the archives of the New York Times:

+

 

Below is a brief excerpt from my novel, An Honorable German. The phrasing from communiques in the interior monologue of the main character (Max) comes directly from actual German armed forces communiques during WW II. Max is on a train packed with young German soldiers on their way to Russia. In the time line of the novel, it is approximately 23 January 1943 and Max is thinking about the German 6th Army which has been trapped in Stalingrad since November of 1942.

“How would it end? Not well. Most alarming, a few days after Christmas, in his evening radio address, General Dittmar, the voice of the Oberkommando der Wehrmacht, had begun to speak of “heroic resistance” by Six Armee’s brave troops–never an encouraging sign. Everyone in Germany had learned to decipher the High Command’s euphemisms: “grim and sanguinary fighting increasing in violence” meant the line had collapsed and troops were being pushed back under murderous fire with terrible casualties; “bitter and prolonged fighting” meant you were hopelessly surrounded; “heroic resistance” meant you were already dead.”