Quotulatiousness

October 29, 2014

Charles Stross – Communist and post-communist Britain, history that didn’t happen

Filed under: Britain, History, Politics — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 07:25

Charles Stross wanders in a Britain of today in a world where Stalin won World War 2, taking all of western Europe into the control of the Soviet Union in the early 1940s:

Here’s a brief thought-experiment for you: imagine what the UK would look like today if the outcome of the second world war had taken a left turn early in 1940, and the whole of western Europe somehow ended up under Soviet control by 1946. (No nuclear weapons or gas attacks need apply: this speculation is about outcomes, not processes — so discussion of precisely how the British People’s Democratic Republic comes about is left as an exercise for the reader (and is not to be explored in comments)).

Let us further postulate that Stalinism passes with its creator, much as happened in our own experience of history: that the Soviet empire eventually undergoes the same fiscal crisis and collapse (alternative discussion of the same process by a former Soviet minister — you can forget the urban legend that Ronald Reagan did it) much as we remember, except possibly somewhat later — as late as the early 21st century, perhaps.

What interests me, in view of recent revelations about police spying and the extent of the British surveillance state is: How would the practice of internal suppression of dissent and state surveillance have differed in a post-Soviet Britain from what we appear to be living with right now?

“Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent”: as we have no way of knowing when the regime of the British Democratic People’s Republic fell, or what level of technology was available to them, purely technical aspects of the Communist surveillance state of the British Isles must be excluded.

However, we know the general shape of the ideological envelope within which Warsaw Pact regimes operated (or were allowed to operate, before the Kremlin jerked their choke-chain), and so we can speculate as to the structure and objectives of the British regime under Actually Existing Socialism.

October 11, 2014

WW2 Japanese balloon bomb discovered in British Columbia

Filed under: Cancon, History, Japan — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 12:05

Wayne Moore on the recently discovered remnants of a unique Japanese weapon that was used to bomb the North American mainland during World War 2:

Remains of Japanese balloon bomb in BC

Seven decades after thousands of “balloon bombs” were let loose by the Imperial Japanese Army to wreak havoc on their enemies across the Pacific, two forestry workers found one half-buried in the mountains of eastern British Columbia.

A navy bomb disposal team was called and arrived at the site Friday in the Monashee Mountains near Lumby, B.C.

“They confirmed without a doubt that it is a Japanese balloon bomb,” said RCMP Cpl. Henry Proce.

Japanese balloon bomb illustration“This thing has been in the dirt for 70 years …. There was still some metal debris in the area (but) nothing left of the balloon itself.”

The forestry workers found the device Wednesday and reported it to RCMP on Thursday.

Proce, a bit of a history buff himself, accompanied the men to the remote area and agreed that the piece appeared to be a military relic.

The area was cordoned off and police contacted the bomb disposal unit at Maritime Forces Pacific.

It was a big bomb, Proce said. A half-metre of metal casing was under the dirt in addition to approximately 15 to 20 centimetres sticking out of the ground.

“It would have been far too dangerous to move it,” Proce said. “They put some C4 on either side of this thing and they blew it to smithereens.”

September 21, 2014

Dramatic Footage of British Troops Preparing for Operation Market Garden

Filed under: Britain, History, Military — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 11:00

Nearly ten minutes of both British and German footage of the launch of Operation Market — the airborne assault on the Netherlands by British and American troops in September, 1944 (Operation Garden was the corresponding ground attack by Montgomery’s troops to reach the landings by one British and two American airborne divisions.

Rows-of-Dakota-Aircraft-prior-to-take-off-for-Arnhem,-Sept-17th-1944_0

Paratroopers descend enmasse at the DZs near Arnhem, September 1944 Uploaded by: Mac Magreehan. (via Forces.TV)

Paratroopers descend enmasse at the DZs near Arnhem, September 1944 Uploaded by Mac Magreehan. (via Forces.TV)

More photos of the operation can be viewed at Forces.TV.

August 23, 2014

Defining the “best tank of World War 2″

Filed under: Britain, Europe, History, Military, Technology, USA — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 11:14

Nigel Davies revisits one of the perpetual debates among amateur WW2 historians:

Let us start with the issue of tanks from the perspective of propaganda. More rubbish has been written about who had the best tanks during the Second World War than about any other topic to do with that war. Again and again you get supposedly serious historians talking about how the Germans started the Second World War with overwhelming tank superiority; that the Allies were only brought back into the race by the arrival of the Sherman tank; and how German technology leapt ahead again at the end of the Second World War to give them unrivalled vehicles. All these statements are of course completely incorrect.

One of the problems of course, is ‘best tank when, and for what?’

Comparing what was available in 1939/40 to what was being produced in 1945 (say a Panzer III or Matilda II with a Centurion or Stalin), is worse than useless. There is no comparison. Only the Panzer IV was actually produced throughout the war: and the heavily armoured final version of the tank — with a long barrelled 75mm gun capable of taking on almost every tank yet operational in mid 1945 — bore only a passing resemblance to the lightly armoured tank with a short barrelled infantry support gun — of with minimal ability to do more than scratch the paint of a CharB in 1939/40.

SOMUA 35 tank at Bovington Tank Museum (via Wikipedia)

SOMUA 35 tank at Bovington Tank Museum (via Wikipedia)

It’s relatively easy to do a quick measurables test comparing one tank against another: thickness and location of the armour, size and muzzle velocity of the main gun, engine horsepower, road speed, etc., but the very best tank on all of those measurements could still be beaten by an enemy using better combat tactics: the French SOMUA 35 and the British Matilda II were the best tanks in the world in 1939 and 1940 respectively (according to Davies). In spite of the superior measurables, the SOMUA 35 was incredibly limited by having the tank commander also be the gunner and loader and it lacked a radio for communication (and even if they had been so equipped, the already overworked tank commander would have had to be the radio operator, too). The Matilda was designed as an infantry tank, so it was very heavily armoured, but relatively slow and somewhat undergunned (the 40mm main gun only had solid shot for anti-armour use: there was no high explosive round for softer targets).

Matilda II at Yad la-Shiryon Museum (via Wikipedia)

Matilda II at Yad la-Shiryon Museum (via Wikipedia)

The Matilda and its successor the Valentine would probably still the best Allied tanks in the world in early 1941, when they swept Italian forces before them, and several times fought the German African corps to a standstill. The German response to their shocking failures in 1940, had been to upgrade the Panzer III and IV with slightly improved armour, and the short barreled 50 mm gun. But they were still on a losing wicket engaging the British infantry tanks in any sort of close terrain, such as in the siege of Tobruk. Fortunately for Rommel, out in the open terrain of the desert he could deploy his tanks behind screens of high-powered anti-tank guns, which the British tanks lacked the long-range high explosive shells to engage effectively.

It also helped that too many British cavalry officers in the desert war still had a “tally ho!” attitude and were frequently drawn into unsupported tank charges against German or Italian tanks who were able to draw the fast but lightly armoured British cruisers into easy killing range of their anti-tank guns.

M4A1 Sherman tank at Canadian Forces Base Borden (via Wikipedia)

M4A1 Sherman tank at Canadian Forces Base Borden (via Wikipedia)

This is where the myth of the value of the Sherman tank comes from. The Sherman arrived at a time when it’s armour and weapon were on a par with the Panzer III and IV tanks that it was facing. Despite the fact that its 75 mm gun was greatly inferior as an anti-tank weapon to the new British six pounder guns that were starting to equip British tanks, the high explosive shell that the Sherman could fire was incredibly useful for engaging Rommel’s 88 mm guns at long-distance in the flat desert terrain.

For several months, it seemed as though the mechanically reliable Sherman would be a war winner, despite its notable tendency to explode in flames whenever it was hit. (Allied troops refer to it as a Ronson — “lights first time every time”. German troops just referred to it as a “Tommy Cooker”.) But this concept was fantasy, which could be easily demonstrated within a few months, though it took the US government another two years to admit it.

[...]

T-34/85 at musée des blindés de Saumur (via Wikipedia)

T-34/85 at musée des blindés de Saumur (via Wikipedia)

In all of this so far, I have barely mentioned the Russians at all. Their T34 tank was possibly the single most effective of the war, and was the breakthrough that forced everyone else to rethink their designs. So we can say without a shadow of a doubt that the T34 was the best tank of the war for almost two years — from the time of Barbarossa (June 22, 1941) until the appearance of the Panther at Kursk (July 5, 1943). It certainly held this title unchallenged by the Sherman and Churchill tanks that appeared during its reign, and probably by the Tiger as well.

The Tiger is a problem for this sort of discussion, because it re-introduces the concept of ‘what for’ into the debate. The Tiger was a far superior heavy infantry support or assault tank to the T34, but a far inferior battlefield manoeuvre or pursuit tank. In fact the Tiger was so slow and limited in cross country ability, that it was actually more effective as a defensive weapon once the Germans were thrown back on that approach, than it had been for re-igniting their Blitzkreig glory days.

He sums up the post with a league table of “best tanks” for given years and purposes:

Having noted the necessary division between medium cruisers and heavy assault/infantry support tanks however, we can still make a fair summary.

So, in contrast to what many history books and documentaries will tell you, the French had the best tanks in 1939, and the British had the best tanks of 1940 and 1945. Also in contrast to what many history books will tell you, the Shermans effective front-line role can best be defined as the few months between the battle of Alamein, and the arrival of Tiger tanks in Tunisia. All attempts to use it after that in Italy or northern France just demonstrated how pathetic it was in modern engagements. Even the British Firefly version with the 17 pounder, was extremely vulnerable to any German tank. In fact it is amusing to note, that they came into their own for the blitzkrieg across open country in pursuit of the defeated German armies across France; which has a direct parallel to the inferior German tanks pursuing the defeated French in 1940. (The equally inadequate British Cromwell tanks, being significantly faster, were actually still better at this pursuit than the Shermans.) The best tank of the Sherman’s period of functional use, of course being the T34.

So our list of ‘best tanks’ could go something like this.
1939 — Best cruiser – Somua 35, Best support – CharB.
1940 — Best support becomes Matilda II.
1941 — Best cruiser initially Panzer III/IV with short 50mm guns, becomes T34 when Russia enters the war.
1942 — Best support is Tiger.
1943 — Best cruiser is Panther.
1944 — Best support is Tiger II.
1945 — Best ‘all purpose’ is Centurion.

August 19, 2014

The Prime Minister’s statement on the 72nd anniversary of Operation Jubilee

Filed under: Cancon, Europe, History, Military — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 08:51

It was a bloody shambles, but we still remember the bravery and sacrifice of the troops who went ashore at Dieppe in 1942:

On August 19, 1942, nearly 5,000 Canadian troops, along with British and American Allies, undertook a raid on Dieppe to test new equipment, probe the strength of German defences and gain the experience necessary for a larger amphibious assault.

The majority of the forces that attacked that day at five different points along the 16 km front encountered stiff resistance, unexpected obstacles, and a well-entrenched, well-prepared enemy. The Canadians fought on, through machine gun fire, mortar barrages, and sniper and air attacks.

The lessons learned at Dieppe and subsequent landings proved invaluable for the D-Day invasion and were instrumental in saving countless lives on June 6, 1944. Sadly, the Raid on Dieppe came at a steep price for Canadian participants, with 916 making the ultimate sacrifice and 1,900 taken as prisoners of war.

On this solemn day, let us remember the courage and sacrifice of the thousands of Canadians who fought with bravery and determination at Dieppe to free Europe from Nazi tyranny and ensure the peace and freedom that we enjoy today.

Lest we forget.

July 22, 2014

What happened to the top universities outside the Anglosphere?

Filed under: Europe, History, Politics, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 08:29

Steve Sailer has an interesting take on the rise of the top universities in the Anglosphere:

The reality is that the top U.S. (and British) universities have been winning the global competition for talent since the middle of the 20th Century. Look at Nobel Prizes. It wasn’t always like this. Go back to the summer of 1914 and the best research universities tended to be German, with other Continental countries in competition.

What happened to bring about Anglo-American dominance of universities?

I’m sure there are many reasons, but I want to fixate on just two. Namely, we won the Big Ones: WWI and WWII. In the postwar era, the losers, such as Germany and Austria (1918 and 1945), Italy (1943) and France (1940) smashed up their great colleges for being epitomizations of anti-democratic elitism.

The Continentals converted their famous universities to open admissions with virtually no tuition: giant lecture halls with a few thousand students taking notes or dozing.

The French government, not being stupid, kept some small, low profile, ultra-elitist Écoles to train the people who actually run France, while trashing grand old names like the Sorbonne. Piketty, for example, did his undergrad at the École normale supérieure, which is immensely prestigious in the right circles in France, but us big dumb Americans hardly know about it because it only has 600 undergrads. And few Tiger Moms in Seoul, Shanghai, or Mumbai care about it either.

For a French culture that believes itself normally superior, this is annoying.

In contrast, the winning Americans poured even more money into Harvard and Yale. When 1968 happened, only CCNY in the U.S. was dumb enough to fall for the reigning ideology rather than just give it lip service. Instead, Harvard devoted ample resources to modeling admissions and perfected a system of affirmative action for buying off complainers (see Robert Klitgaard’s 1985 book Choosing Elites) without damaging Harvard as the prime pipeline to Wall Street.

Similarly, Oxford and Cambridge survived the Socialist governments with elitist prestige largely intact, mostly because Britain, though almost ruined by the expense, was on the winning side in WW I/II. And winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing.

July 5, 2014

QotD: Collaborators and their accusers, France 1944

Filed under: Europe, History, Military — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 00:01

The task of filtering the tens of thousands of Frenchmen and women arrested for collaboration in the summer of 1944 proved overwhelming for the nascent administration of de Gaulle’s provisional government. That autumn, there were over 300,000 dossiers still outstanding. In Normandy, prisoners were brought to the camp at Sully near Bayeux by the sécurité militaire, the gendarmerie and sometimes by US military police. There were also large numbers of displaced foreigners, Russians, Italians and Spaniards, who were trying to survive by looting from farms.

The range of charges against French citizens was wide and often vague. They included “supplying the enemy”, “relations with the Germans”, denunciation of members of the Resistance or Allied paratroopers, “an anti-national attitude during the Occupation”, “pro-German activity”, “providing civilian clothes to a German soldier”, “pillaging”, even just “suspicion from a national point of view”. Almost anybody who had encountered the Germans at any stage could be denounced and arrested.

Anthony Beevor, D-Day: The Battle for Normandy, 2009.

June 27, 2014

Indonesia’s SoldatenKaffee re-opens

Filed under: Asia, Business — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 07:27

After some minor redecoration, the Nazi-themed SoldatenKaffee has re-opened in Bandung:

Really, there is no reason you should be offended by the SoldatenKaffee, its owner insists.

True, this cafe in Bandung, Indonesia’s third largest city, features a portrait of Adolf Hitler over its fireplace. There are also giant Third Reich iron eagles bearing swastikas on the wall, next to Nazi posters. And yes, some of its customers are wearing military uniforms and Nazi armbands.

But this is definitely NOT a Nazi-themed place. Nope, not at all.

The owner wants to make this very clear, once for all.

A Nazi swastika insignia sign on the floor decorates the interior of the reopened SoldatenKaffee in Bandung city, western Java island on June 21, 2014. The Nazi-theme cafe in Indonesia that sparked international outrage and closed shop has reopened with its walls still bearing swastikas and a large painting of Adolf Hitler. AFP PHOTO / TIMUR MATAHARI

“We have a lot of customers from Europe and they don’t have a problem with the World War II theme, because it is seen here from a historical perspective,” the owner also said at the cafe’s reopening.

But somehow, the Hitler pictures, Hitler quotes on the wall and swastikas suggest otherwise. The fact that the cafe’s Facebook page is full of Nazi propaganda doesn’t help either.

Knowledge of the Holocaust and the Nazi era is not widespread in Indonesia. Winda, who works in Jakarta but studied in Bandung, says she doesn’t really remember studying the topic at school and only heard about concentration camps after she left. “Perhaps the Holocaust was mentioned, but very briefly, we only heard about Adolf Hitler,” she says. “I think we were taught to dislike the Jews more than the Nazis.”

The owner may not understand why this is of such interest to the Western media, but he clearly knows that keeping that attention on his café is good for business.

June 7, 2014

Historic WW2 aircraft fly over Juno Beach

Filed under: Cancon, Europe, History — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 10:53

Two Spitfires, a Dakota DC-3, and a Lancaster Bomber conduct a flypast over Juno Beach, France, during commemorative ceremonies of the 70th Anniversary of D-Day on June 6, 2014. Photo by Sgt Bern LeBlanc Canadian Army Public Affairs AS2014-0027-002

Two Spitfires, a Dakota DC-3, and a Lancaster Bomber conduct a flypast over Juno Beach, France, during commemorative ceremonies of the 70th Anniversary of D-Day on June 6, 2014. Photo by Sgt Bern LeBlanc Canadian Army Public Affairs AS2014-0027-002

June 6, 2014

“Fizzy dishwater” instead of Champagne for the “wine Fuhrer”

Filed under: Europe, History, Wine — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 06:45

Chris Mercer on the various ways the French Champagne producers tried to keep their best wine from being diverted to the use of the Nazis:

By the time the French city of Reims was liberated in August 1944, many Champagne houses and growers had spent four years playing a game of high stakes cat-and-mouse with the local Nazi ‘wine fuhrer’, Otto Klaebisch.

As Julian Hitner writes in a feature published in the July issue of Decanter magazine, it was Klaebisch’s job to keep the Nazi empire topped up with France’s finest Champagnes. At its peak, Klaebisch was demanding 400,000 bottles per week.

In response, many Champenois resorted to subterfuge to try to protect their most precious vintages and cuvees.

As noted in the book Wine & War by Don & Petrie Kladstrup, some built fake walls in their cellar to hide their best stocks, while others intentionally mislabelled bottles.

On more than one occasion, Klaebisch suspected he was being duped. ‘How dare you send us fizzy dishwater?’ he asked 20-year-old Francois Taittinger.

‘Who cares? It’s not as if it’s going to be drunk by anyone who knows anything about Champagne,’ replied the young Taittinger, who was subsequently thrown in prison for several days.

H/T to Brendan for the link.

Canadian paratroopers on D-Day – “he thought we were battle hardened and we were as green as green could be”

Filed under: Cancon, Europe, History, Military — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 00:01

Lance Corporal John Ross tells the Ottawa Citizen about his D-Day experiences with the 1st Canadian Parachute Battalion:

“We attacked the strong point; there was an all-night fire fight. We had casualties and the Germans did too. At about 10 o’clock in the morning they surrendered. There were about 30 of us there, 42 Germans surrendered to us. They outnumbered us and they out gunned us,” describes Capt (Ret) John Ross, now 93 years-old recalling his time as a paratrooper who dropped several kilometers inland of Normandy on D-Day.

“We took off on the 5th of June, one day before D-Day. C Company was given the job to go in 30 minutes ahead to clear the drop zone of any enemy and attack the German complex.”

Capt (Ret) Ross served as a Lance Corporal in C Company, 1st Canadian Parachute Battalion, 3rd Airborne Brigade, 6th British Airborne Division. He was dropped from an Armstrong Whitworth Albemarle, a small two engine paratroop transport aircraft.

[...]

When thinking back to his time in Normandy Capt (ret) Ross remembers how Canadian soldiers were thought of as, seasoned warriors.

“I read an excerpt written by a German General after the war. He was in that area that we dropped in and he said that the reason they were overcome was because they faced battle hardened Canadians. I’d like to write a letter to him and say none of those Canadians had ever heard a shot fired in anger; he thought we were battle hardened and we were as green as green could be.”

June 5, 2014

QotD: Churchill, Roosevelt and de Gaulle

Filed under: Europe, History, Quotations, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 12:08

The central problem of relations with de Gaulle stemmed from President Roosevelt’s distrust. Roosevelt saw him as a potential dictator. This view had been encouraged by Admiral Leahy, formerly his ambassador to Marshal Petain in Vichy, as well as several influential Frenchmen in Washington, including Jean Monnet, later seen as the founding father of European unity.

Roosevelt had become so repelled by French politics that in February he suggested changing the plans for the post-war Allied occupation zones in Germany. He wanted the United States to take the northern half of the country, so that it could be resupplied through Hamburg rather than through France. “As I understand it,” Churchill wrote in reply, “your proposal arises from an aversion to undertaking police work in France and a fear that this might involve the stationing of US Forces in France over a long period.”

Roosevelt, and to a lesser extent Churchill, refused to recognize the problems of what de Gaulle himself described as “an insurrectional government”. De Gaulle was not merely trying to assure his own position. He needed to keep the rival factions together to save France from chaos after the liberation, perhaps even civil war. But the lofty and awkward de Gaulle, often to the despair of his own supporters, seemed almost to take a perverse pleasure in biting the American and British hands which fed him. De Gaulle had a totally Franco-centric view of everything. This included a supreme disdain for inconvenient facts, especially anything which might undermine the glory of France. Only de Gaulle could have written a history of the French army and manage to make no mention of the Battle of Waterloo.

Anthony Beevor, D-Day: The Battle for Normandy, 2009.

May 19, 2014

“Parallel construction” and Godwinizing the NSA

Filed under: Government, History, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 09:33

At Popehat, Clark uses an excerpt from a Bruce Schneier post to make a larger point. Here’s what Bruce wrote last year:

This dynamic was vitally important during World War II. During the war, the British were able to break the German Enigma encryption machine and eavesdrop on German military communications. But while the Allies knew a lot, they would only act on information they learned when there was another plausible way they could have learned it. They even occasionally manufactured plausible explanations. It was just too risky to tip the Germans off that their encryption machines’ code had been broken.

And this is Clark’s take:

We know that the NSA collects all sorts of information on American citizens. We know that the FBI and the CIA have full access to this information. We know that the DEA also has full access to that data. And we know that when the DEA busts someone using information gleaned by the electronic panopticon of our internal spy organization, they take pains to hide the source of the information via the subterfuge of parallel construction.

The insight is this: our government is now dealing with the citizenry the same way that the British dealt with the Nazis: treating them as an external existential threat, spying on them, and taking pains to obfuscate the source of the information that they use to target their attacks.

Yeah, Godwin’s law, whatever, whatever. My point is NOT that the NSA is the same as the Nazi party (in fact, my argument has the NSA on the opposite side). My point is that the government now treats ordinary civilians as worthy of the same sort of tactics that they once used against the Nazis.

H/T to Bernard King for the link.

May 4, 2014

The Battle of the Atlantic

Filed under: Cancon, History, Military — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 00:01

On the first Sunday in May every year, we remember the Battle of the Atlantic, one of the major contributions to allied victory in World War 2, and the Canadian part in that multi-year battle:

The Battle of the Atlantic campaign was fought at sea from 1939 to 1945 with the strategic outcome being sea-control of the North Atlantic Ocean. It was the longest, largest, and arguably the most complex campaign of the Second World War. Over the course of 2,075 days, Allied naval and air forces fought more than 100 convoy battles and perhaps 1,000 single ship actions against the submarines and warships of the German and Italian navies. Enemy vessels targeted mainly the convoys of merchant ships transporting material and troops vital to safeguarding the freedom of the peoples of North America and Europe.

On any given day, up to 125 merchant vessels were sailing in convoy across the North Atlantic. It was during these treacherous, stormy crossings that Canada’s navy matured and won the mantle of a professional service. Our navy escorted more than 25,000 merchant vessels across the Atlantic. These ships carried some 182,000,000 tonnes of cargo to Europe — the equivalent of eleven lines of freight cars, each stretching from Vancouver to Halifax. Without these supplies, the war effort would have collapsed.

Thousands of Canadian men and women – members of the Royal Canadian Navy (RCN), the Merchant Navy (MN) and the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF), mostly volunteers from small town Canada – had to face situations so perilous they are difficult for us to imagine. As Canadians, we should be proud of their courage.

Although largely unprepared for war in 1939, Canada’s navy grew at an unparalleled rate eventually providing 47 percent of all convoy escorts. Rear Admiral Leonard Murray, who as Commander-in-Chief Northwest Atlantic from March 1943, would become the only Canadian to hold an Allied theatre command during the war and direct the convoy battles out of his headquarters in Halifax.

During the Second World War the RCN grew from 13 vessels to a strength of nearly 100,000 uniformed men and women and nearly 400 vessels, the fourth largest navy in the world. It had suffered 2,210 fatalities, including six women, and had lost 33 vessels. It had destroyed or shared in the destruction of 33 U-Boats and 42 enemy surface craft. In partnership with Canada’s maritime air forces and merchant navy, it had played a pivotal and successful role in the contest for seaward supremacy.

Merchant ships of Convoy HX188 en route to Britain. Photo: Library and Archives Canada PA-115006

Merchant ships of Convoy HX188 en route to Britain.
Photo: Library and Archives Canada PA-115006

April 19, 2014

The Doolittle Raid, 18 April 1942

Filed under: History, Japan, Military, Pacific, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 09:35

I was busy with away-from-the-computer stuff yesterday, so I didn’t see this post until today:

Brig. Gen. James Doolittle poses beside an Air Corps recruiting poster that alludes to his bombing raid on Japan in April 1942. (c) 1943

Brig. Gen. James Doolittle poses beside an Air Corps recruiting poster that alludes to his bombing raid on Japan in April 1942. (c) 1943

Less than 19 weeks after the U.S. Navy was attacked at Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, the American military struck back. On April 18, 1942 – 72 years ago today – sixteen Army Air Force bombers launched from a Navy aircraft carrier to attack the enemy’s homeland.

Led by Lt. Col. James H. Doolittle, the raid was launched from USS Hornet, commanded by Capt. Marc Mitscher and escorted by ships under the command of Vice Adm. “Bull” Halsey aboard his flagship, USS Enterprise.

The extraordinary joint Doolittle Raid showed Imperial Japan’s military leaders their vulnerability and America’s resolve.

The raid also demonstrated innovation, courage and resilience.

The five-man B-25 crews trained relentlessly prior to their mission, with specialized training led by Navy flight instructor Lt. Henry F. Miller. The Army Air Force made ingenious modifications so the bombers could have extra fuel but less weight.

Pilots, all volunteers, needed to be extremely fearless, taking off in their huge planes from a short flight deck. On rough seas they launched in bitter cold, 75-knot winds and foam-flecked spray, as Sailors aboard recalled.

Doolittle, as his team’s leader, took off first. His success inspired the other pilots just as their entire mission would inspire the nation – putting action to the nationwide words of resolve heard throughout the world: “Remember Pearl Harbor!”

[...]

An Army Air Force B-25B bomber takes off from USS Hornet (CV 8) at the start of the raid, April 18, 1942. Note men watching from the signal lamp platform at right. (Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the U.S. National Archives – Courtesy of the NHHC Photo archives)

An Army Air Force B-25B bomber takes off from USS Hornet (CV 8) at the start of the raid, April 18, 1942. Note men watching from the signal lamp platform at right. (Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the U.S. National Archives – Courtesy of the NHHC Photo archives)

Seven Doolittle Raiders were killed in the mission: Two drowned and a third was killed by the fall after bailing out; eight were captured by the Japanese. Three of the eight POWs were executed Oct. 15, 1942, and another died of malnutrition Dec. 1, 1943. The surviving four POWs were released in August 1945.

The Raiders who landed in China were assisted by American missionary Rev. John M. Birch, whose contacts within Japanese-occupied China helped the Raiders to escape. Afterward, Birch was commissioned a lieutenant in the Army Air Force, continuing his work as a missionary while gathering intelligence on the Japanese. He was killed Aug. 25, 1945, at the age of 27, during a confrontation with Chinese Communists. The John Birch Society honors Birch, a recipient of both the Legion of Merit and the Distinguished Service Medal.

Even though the Doolittle Raiders bombed Tokyo, it was the Chinese who suffered the most from the raid. Furious the Chinese nationalists were protecting the Americans, the Japanese retaliated against several coastal cities suspected of harboring the Americans, killing an estimated 250,000 Chinese citizens.

Doolittle was so convinced his mission had been a failure, he was convinced he would face a court-martial upon his return to the United States. Instead, he was promoted to general, skipping the rank of colonel. He and all of his Raiders were awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross.

Mitscher served in a variety of command leadership positions for the rest of World War II, earning the rank of admiral and title as Commander in Chief, U.S. Atlantic Fleet.

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