View Full Version : The Death of Göring and the Victory of the Luftwaffe
June 25th, 2006, 09:21 AM
The Death of Göring and the Victory of the Luftwaffe
Just like the Pied Piper
led rats through the streets
we dance like marionettes
swaying to the Symphony...
- Megadeath, Symphony of Destruction.
For some time I’ve been thinking about Hermann Göring and his place in the Third Reich and his influence on the events that led to the utter defeat of the Luftwaffe. During my endavour to write the Italia Eterna ATL, I began to consider how a Luftwaffe, and a Germany, without the Iron Fatty would have looked like, and I decided to test it out. So without further ado I bring you; The Death of Göring and the Victory of the Luftwaffe.
The ATL is here and there slightly different from the one posted in the discussion thread as I’ve tried to root out as many of the all too frequent mistakes I’ve made. J
Furthermore I’d like to thank Tom B, Shadow Knight, Kalvan and the rest of you for inspiration, ideas and support.
Comments, criticism and what not are to be posted at: http://www.alternatehistory.net/discussion/showthread.php?t=6901
I can’t complain I’ve made myself a name
I have watched the cities riot
I have seen nations fall
And I have denied my God
While you misled us all
- Pretty Maids, Snake in Eden.
I can’t complain I’ve made myself a name
And all I really want is five minuttes of fame
Some material wealth and a life in good health
Cos all I really care about is myself!
- Claw Finger, Pay the Bill.
The Luftwaffe – German Air Force - was officially formed in May of 1935, even though it had existed in some form more or less since being banned by the Versailles Treaty as first Freikorps air formations, then later in the form of private glider plane clubs, as private air companies ala Milch’s Lufthansa and finally as part of a secret set-up at Lipetsk in the Soviet Union. However, with the enactment of the Law for the Reconstruction of the National Defence Forces, Luftwaffe was officially born together with a standing German army - Heer - and a navy - Kriegsmarine. Hitler’s close ally and stout supporter, WWI fighter ace, Hermann Göring was the mastermind behind the new air force and also served as its head as well as Minister of the civilian Reichsluftfahrtministerium - Reichs Air Ministry. Göring’s influence secured the Luftwaffe massive political backing and lots of resources in its early days.
In late 1935, only some six months after being appointed the Commander-in-Chief of the Luftwaffe, Hermann Göring, who also served as President of the Reichstag and Prime Minister of Prussia, died as a result of the injuries sustained in a tragic traffic accident, where an Opel lorry carrying pigs for slaughter rammed Göring’s Mercedes.
The German Führer, Adolf Hitler, spoke at Göring‘s funeral: “In this sad hour it is very hard for me to think of a man whose deeds speak louder and more impressively than words can do. When we received the terrible news of the misfortune, to which our dear old comrade, General Göring, had fallen victim, many million Germans had the same feeling of emptiness which always occurs when an irreplaceable man is taken from his fellow men! However, the whole German nation knows that the death of this man means an irreplaceable loss for us. It is not only the creative personality which was taken from us, but it is also the loyal man and unforgettable comrade, whose departure touches us so deeply!” Göring’s funeral was as lavish as the dead man’s own lifestyle had been and a testimony to the skills of the organizer, Albert Speer.
The fledgling Luftwaffe’s Chef der Generalstabes der Luftwaffe - Chief of Staff - Walther Wever, an extremely capable and innovative officer, who once had served in the Heer and as Ludendorff’s adjutant in the Great War, was soon announced as the new Oberbefehlshaber der Luftwaffe - head of the Luftwaffe. Blomberg once said he lost a future C-in-C of the Army when Generalleutnant - Lt.General - Wever began his new career in the Luftwaffe, and he just might have been right as Wever would go on the become one of Germany’s most capable commanders ever.
General der Luftwaffe - Air General - Albert Kesselring became the new Chief of Staff, while the able administrator, Erhard Milch, became Reichsminister der Luftfahrt – Air Minster- and thus in charge of the civilian side of the German aviation bureaucracy and amongst other things responsible for aircraft production and design.
Wever and Milch respectively cleaned out their two intertwined organizations and was responsible for organizing the rapid build-up of the aircraft industry and training of pilots. Wever, Milch and their advisors soon begun to build a truly modern and balanced air force with focus on air supremacy, interdiction, ground support and strategic bombing in the that order.
On the political front, men like Himmler, Hess, Goebbels, Bormann and Schacht fought over the remains of the deceased Göring’s political domain and carved out new ones. Hjalmar Schacht, with the aid of Walther Funk, emerged with near total control over the German economy, while Rudolf Hess ended up as President of the Reichstag, Joseph Goebbels got to be Prime Minister of Prussia, while Heinrich Himmler was made chief of all German police and security forces.
Later Martin Bormann, the Reichsleiter of the NSDAP and Rudolf Hess’ private secretary, would be appointed as Plenipotentiary for the Implementation of the Four Year Plan, which gave him virtually total control over the re-armament programme. Bormann’s new office was still subsequent to Hjamar Schacht though and the two, and Funk, would clash numerous times in the years to come.
Together with Wilhelm Frick, the Minister of the Interior, Goebbles and Himmler would enact the infamous Nurenberg Laws and other anti-semitic laws that in the end would lead to the system of concentration camps which claimed nearly 3 million lives as the inmates worked themselves to death in the service of an ungrateful nation.
Weapons of War
You’re the fuel to the fire
You’re the weapons of war
You’re the irony of justice
And the father of law.
- Stone Temple Pilots, Naked Sunday.
The city is closing in on him
And everywhere’s getting smaller
And his fingers are getting itchy.....!
– Space, 2 Mister Psycho.
Wever and Milch went about to create a powerful fighter arm, under Air Generals Hans Jeschonnek and Ernst Udet, that consisted of Me-109 fighters, a strong tactical arm, under Air General Hugo Sperrle, that consisted mainly of Ju-87 dive bombers for ground support and He-111 bombers for ordinary tactical attacks and finally a relatively weak strategic bomber force, under Air General Robert Ritter von Greim, that was made up by Do-19 heavy bombers.
Wever and Milch had to make some tough choices in regards to the hasty re-building of a German air force. Without the political clout of the former boss, they ran into a lot of trouble getting sufficient resources as Schacht, as Minister of Economics, and to a somewhat lesser degree his number two man, Funk, was increasingly against spending absurd amounts of hard-earned Reichsmarks on weapons and the Wehrmacht in general. Strangely enough, the ambitious and generally disliked Chief of the Four Year Plan, Reichsleiter of the NSDAP, Martin Bormann, came to their aid and secured the Luftwaffe a decent flow of much needed resources. Later this initial scarceness of resources and means would benefit the duo in charge of the German air force and industry as they learned to do things the most efficient way! As it was, Wever and Milch focused nearly entirely on four designs and did their best to streamline the production of these!
Likewise did the trouble with funding help to iron out the differences between Wever, Kesselring and some of the other high ranking officers in regards to strategies and future goals for the resurgent Luftwaffe. As it was clear that the Luftwaffe couldn’t do it all, so to speak, it was decided to focus on gaining air superiority and the means to achieve that – fighters! Even though Hitler and some of the Generals were furious, Wever and Milch held their ground.
The Me-109 was to become one of the best known German fighters because of its early successes in Spain, Poland, Denmark, Norway, the Low Countries, France and especially over Britain. The Me-109 was the backbone of the German fighter command and ruled the skies over Europe from 1938 to late 1940 – where it began to be replaced by the truly deadly FW-190 -, as the German Führer, Adolf Hitler, spread Nazism across the continent of Europe by the force of arms.
The Me-109 was designed by Willie Messerschmitt in 1934 and was first flown in September 1935. In July 1938, the firm that initiated the design - Bayerische Flugzeugwerke AG -, was re-designated Messerschmitt AG, so the plane often carried the prefix "Bf" instead of "Me".
In Oberkommando Luft – OKL -, Luftwaffes supreme command, it was from an early stage clear, that the Me-109 had one serious flaw, or more to the point, an Achilles heel; it was very short ranged. In the Spanish Civil War its short range prevented the Me-109 from escorting Luftwaffe bombers, thus contributing the some rather heavy losses among the new Dornier Do-19 four engine heavy bombers that Wever had been a proponent for. The problem was, however, quite cleverly solved with the application of drop tanks – ejectable, aerodynamic fuel containers strapped under the wings of the fighters.
The Me-109s earned the respect of Germany's enemies in every theater of conflict and were greatly feared by the pilots of RAF’s Fighter Command during the Battle for France and later that of Britain itself.
Another of the famous early Luftwaffe designs originated in 1935 and would be one of the leaders of Luftwaffes darlings for years to come. The Junkers Ju-87 Sturzkampfflugzeug – dive bomber -, or Stuka as it was generally called, would become synonymous with the great successes of the Luftwaffe.
The Stuka proved extremely successful in the Spanish Civil War as flying artillery with nearly pin-point accuracy. Stuka’s could dive into a near-vertical dive over its targets and hit them with godlike accuracy time after time, doing as much damage to morale as material. This ability combined with the nerve-wrecking howl of its build-in sirens, made the Stuka as much a destroyer of morale as of material things.
As long as total air supremacy was secured, the Ju-87 would be a formidable plane, but in a contested sky it would prove a death trap. The Stuka got updated several times during the War and continued to serve untill the end of hostilities in 1947.
The third of Lufwaffe’s core designs was the Heinkel He-111. It was originally designed for civilian use in Lufthansa, but had nonetheless provisions for three gun positions and a 1,000kg bomb load. Early versions featured a conventional cockpit and nose section and were used during the Spanish Civil War.
In 1938, a new version of the He-111, the He-111P, began to leave the production lines and featured a completely redesigned wing and nose with extensive glazing and off-set to improve pilot visibility and this was to become the trademark of the type for the remainder of its service. Another feature of the new P-series was its more streamlined look. By the time of the Battle of Britain, yet another variant had seen the light of day. The He-111H was an up-dated version of the He-111P and was equipped with heavier defensive armaments as the plane had proven to vulnerable to fihgter attacks in Spain and Poland. Luftwaffe control of the sky wasn’t always complete as command and control facilities were somewhat lacking in the late 30’s. Later the Heinkels would be replaced with Junker Ju-88 medium bombers, which were faster and carried an expanded bomb load.
The last of Luftwaffes so-called core designs of the 30’s was Dornier’s Do-19 heavy bomber. As Wever became Luftwaffe's first Chief of Staff he, and to a lesser extend Milch, was the most persistent advocate of long-range strategic bombers. Both Dornier and Junkers were competitors for the contract, and each received an order for three prototypes in late 1935. The Dornier design was given the project number of Do-19, while the Junkers prototype became the Ju-89.
The design that were picked was Dornier’s. The Do-19 was a innovating design constructed mostly of metal and had retractable landing gear. The Do-19 had a crew of nine - a pilot, co-pilot, navigator, bombardier, radio operator and five gunners. Its defensive armament consisted of two 7.92mm MG 15 machine guns, one each in nose and tail positions, and two 20mm cannon in ventral and dorsal turrets. The defensive armament would be upgraded after its trial by fire in Spain and later Poland as it too poved to be a relative easy target for enemy fighters. It could only, however, carry some 1600kg of bombs in internal bays.
As the Luftwaffe had to prioritize after Göring’s death, the strategic bombers never showed their real worth in the the early days of the reborn Lufwaffe, but would prove invaluable in the Eastern War!
Great nations built from the bones of the dead,
With mud and straw, blood and sweat,
You know your worth when your enemies
Praise your architecture of destruction!
- Megadeath, Architecture of Destruction.
I’m a product
Of my enviroment
So don’t blame me, I just work here.
- The Offspring, Americana.
In the summer of 1936, the Spanish military, the Guardia Civil and the Falange Movement rose in revolt against the Republican Government in Spanish North Africa and in Spain itself. The Nationalists, as the revolters called themselves, succeeded in seizing power in Morocco, Navarre, Galicia, Castile and Seville, but failed in several of the larger cities such as Barcelona and Madrid.
On Hitler’s explicit order the Lufwaffe sent the Nationalists some 20 fighter aircraft and later German Junkers 52’s were used to ferry over 15,000 Nationalist troops from the Spanish posessions in North Africa to mainland Spain.
Hitler soon decided that indirect and material aid alone would not be sufficient to help Generalissimo Francisco Franco’s Nationalists defeat the apparently more popular Republicans, so in September, 1936, Oberstleutnant – Lt. Colonel – Walther Warlimont was sent to Spain to have a look at the situation and act as military adviser to the Generalissimo. The following month Warlimont suggested that a German expeditionary force be sent to Spain and thus the idea of the Hermann Göring Legion was born.
Most of the senior officers in OKL in Berlin saw the possibilities in getting some valuable first hand experience of modern day air warfare, but they had to consider the flip side too, added costs and most likely deaths among the pilots and air crews. Hitler, however, soon solved their dilemma by ordering the formation of the Hermann Göring Legion as the Soviet Union began to supply the Republicans with aircrafts and tanks in the winter of ´36. Hitler was further annoyed by the appeareance of the International Brigades or Red Mercenaris as he called the Republican volunteer units.
The Hermann Göring Legion, under the command of Air Generals Ernst Udet, the C-in-C and Wolfram von Richthofen, the Chief of Staff, was soon deployed to Spain. The HG Legion was placed directly under Generalissimo Franco’s command and was in the early days of the conflict used as a crack formation where the fighting was hardest and most desperate.
The Legion initially consisted of a Bomber Group of three squadrons of Ju-52 bombers, a Fighter Group with three squadrons of He-51 fighters, a Reconnaissance Group with two squadrons of He-99 and He-70 reconnaissance bombers and finally a Seaplane Squadron of He-59 and He-60 floatplanes. As the Luftwaffe began to recieve their newer planes, such as the Me-109’s, He-111’s and Ju-87’s, the Legion was heavily reinforced and became an extremely capable and dangerous warmachine.
The OKL did its outmost to insure that as many air crews and other personel as possible were rotated into and out of the conflict in Spain and furthermore made sure to shift experienced pilots through the ever expanding training organisation, so the Luftwaffe front units always had rested and veteran pilots available and the trainees got the advanatge of instructors who actually knew what they were talking about! A side-effect of this was an increase in idiosyncratic and chivalrous behavior as trainees and new pilots took their cue from people like Udet, Galland, von Richthofen, Rudel and Mölders. As Reichsluftminister Milch once noted after having visted Adolf Galland’s fighter squadron, JG-26, after its retur from Spain; “It was not a disciplined combat unit, it was a flying circus with American cartoons painted on every aircraft and pilots wearing clothing more suited for stage actors!” Nonetheless, when the War broke out for real in 1939, most Luftwaffe air crews were not only very well trained and led, but also to a large extend veterans.
The HG Legion participated in all the major engagements in the Spanish Civil War, including of course Guernica. At Guernica the Legion showed the world how truly devastating and inhumane modern air warfare could be. In many capitals around the world the near annihilation of the sleepy Spanish town gave the various air force experts a somewhat inflated idea of airpower. The officers at OKL, however, drew a slightly different conclusion; bombers were more vulnerable than first expected and the original decision to concentrate on gaining air superiority first and foremost was the right one.
In April 1939, an official of the German Economic Policy Department, trying to reckon what Germany had spent on help to Generalissimo Franco up to that date, gave a round figure of five hundred million Reichsmarks, not a large sum by comparison with the amounts spent on re-armament in geneal. The advantages Germany secured in return were disproportionate as valuable raw materials flowed from the Spanish mines to the Third Reich’s ever hungry industries and the Wehrmacht got both training and the opportunity to test new equipment, tactics and doctrines under battle conditions.
A total of 20,000 soldiers from Luftwaffe served in the Iberian Intermezzo as, the Spanish Civil War would be known as among the Legionaires, of which some 300 lost their lives. The Legion lost 72 aircraft to enemy action and lost 160 in various accidents. The HG Legion's aircrafts dropped nearly 9 tonnes of bombs and expended in excess of 4 million rounds af small caliber ammunition during the conflict.
With your military mind you were born a leader
And discipline and order is an everyday procedure
So bring out the man in every innocent boy
And theach them how to search and destroy
To protect and to serve and to die with honour and pride!
- Claw Finger, Power.
The joy of violent movement
Pulls you under
- Metallica, 2x4.
The two economic ministers, Schacht and Funk, feared that the excessive German military spending of the last years would cause inflation and economic chaos in Germany as money was poured into the Wehrmacht at a rate that not only drained the Reichsbanks reserves, but indepted the country quite deeply. Furthermore the powerfull Schacht generally disapproved of Hitler's furture aims as stated by himself several times since ‘33; war and the expansion of the Reich by the force or arms.
Still, the Wehrmacht and with it the Luftwaffe as well increased in size and power even in face of Schacht’s stiff oppostion. Besides, Milch who was no beginner in the polical arena, poposed to Wever that they should arrange for an air show to displays Luftwaffe’s most advanced weaponry for Htler and the various key figures in The Third Riech and the Wehrmacht: “The Luftwaffe must make use of such a display to win support for its expansion programme, since if war does break out it will have to bear the brunt of the fighting in the west virtually alone for the next few years!” Wever agreed, and a garnd air show was arranged. Needless to say Hitler was duely impressed and in the autumn of 1937, Hitler, prodded by Bormann, who for resns of his own sided with the Luftwaffe, battered Schacht into approving Luftwaffe and the Reichsluftministry’s budget of a little under 3 billion Reichsmark for the following year. Funding alone, however, was not the only problem plagueing Milch and Wever at this time. Shortages of much needed raw materials had become increasingly apparent as The Third Reich’s economy and its armed forces grew, especially as not only the services within the Wehrmacht itself, but also several civilian agencies competed for copper, steel, iron and other vital, but scarce resources. In the early Summer of 1938, Hitler was warned that there would have to be a significant reduction in the Wehrmacht’s rate of re-armament and expansion as the stock of said resources were virtually used up. That, of course, affected the Luftwaffe as well, but Milch put the slowing tempi to good use as he made several factories re-tool and upgrade their production lines to more modern designs instead of the older designs made so far.
As production slowed down for now, OKL and Milch in the Reichsluftministry – RLM - decided it was time to look for a fighter design to supplement and eventually replace the Me-109. Early in the War, the Me-109’s of the E series completely outclassed the Polish PZL, French Morane-Saulnier MS 406 and British Hawker Hurricane fighters, but both Milch and the officers in charge of the Luftwaffe knew that even if the war - as everyone now knew was comming - would be short and sweet, then the Luftwaffe would hopefully exist for many years to come so the future had to be planned carefully and ahead of time, so to say. The technical director of Focke Wulf Flugzeugbau, Kurt Tank, was chosen to lead the development of the new fighter. The FW-190 flew for the first time on 10th of May, 1939, and would be operational in latter half of 1940, and complete replacing the Me-109’s of the G and F series in mid-1941. Its speed, ease of handling, bubble canopied cockpit and massive firepower - the FW-190 was armed with 4 machine-guns and two 20 mm cannons – would make it the best German fighter of the war, until another Tank-design showed itself in late ’44.
Still, Milch was advised by Bormann’s Four Year Plan Office that the raw materials deficit was so serious, that the production programme might be set back with as much as five years, but in spite of these set backs, the Luftwaffe itself had been made into a formidable machine of war by september 1939. Over 2,300 combat aircraft were deployed, including some 700 medium and heavy bombers, against the Allies. Not only was the Luftwaffe an impressive force on paper, but also an experienced fighting force in reality, unlike those of the Poles, French and English they would soon face, as many Luftwaffe pilots had already gained wartime experience serving with the Hermann Göring Legion in the Iberian intermezzo or at least had been trained by veterans as the OKL kept rotating combat veterans through Luftwaffe’s large, well-oiled training organisation. As Wever said at the time: “Train hard, fight smart and live to tell about it!”
With Göring gone the empire building days of the Luftwaffe was over and Wever and Milch agreed with Grand Admiral Raeder, the naval commander-in-chief, that the Kriegsmarine ought to have its own air arm consisting of specialized planes for naval warfare. When war broke out in 1939 the German Navy had a few squadrones of older Hs-59B-2 torpedo bombers and the brand new and very effective Fieseler Fi-167 torpedo bombers, FW-200 Condor naval bombers and long range reconnaissance planes.
As Luftwaffe already possed a good training organization it was decided that air crews should receive basic training under Luftwaffe’s aegis and then specialized training under the Kriegsmarine’s supervison. Milch, being a businessman to his core, made the Kriegsmarine pay for their pilots and then some. Later the same technic would be used on the Army as they demanded, and got, pilots for their observation and personal transport planes, forward observers and ground-to-air liaison officers.
Work on two aircraft carriers had also begun in the late 1936, as Raeder had proposed that two aircraft carriers be laid down as part of Plan Z. At Fieseler Werke and Deutsche Werke constrction began and the ships were launched within a week of each other in December ‘38. As mentioned a severe lack of various vital resource were plagueing the German industry at the time, so Raeder had to halt constructiuon on two destroyers and some smaller coastal submarines to get approval from Schacht, Funk and Borman for the two projected carriers – A and B. These carriers were to be equipped with specialized carrier-based versions of the Me-109 fighter and the Ju-87 dive-bomber. Carrier A was named Hermann Göring on its launch and Carrier B was named Peter Strasser. Both ships were planned to enter service in 1941 and had a displacement of 23,000 tonnes and an aircraft complement of 42 Me-109TT fighters, Fieseler Fi-167 torpedo bombers and Ju-87CC dive bombers. Later it was planned that specially designed planes should replace the Messerschmitts and Junkers.
June 29th, 2006, 04:14 PM
And so it begins
Power is a war but to you it’s just a game
Power is glory, power is gold
Power is chaos and you’r out of control
Power isn’t freedom, power is a cage
Power is your sin and it feeds my rage!
- Claw Finger, Power.
Born from the dark,
in the black cloak of night
to envelop its prey below,
deliver to the light.
To eliminate your enemy,
hit them in their sleep,
and when all is won and lost,
the spoils of war are yours to keep!
- Megadeath, Architecture of Aggression.
On the 1st of September, 1939, the armed forces of Hitler’s Third Reich initiated Fall Weiss – Plan White – and begun an undeclared war with Poland as German Army Groups crossed the border. Thus started what was to be known as the Second World War. Seen in retrospective the Great War of 1914-18 wasn’t so great anymore as the entire world would soon erupt into flames and happily let itself get consumed in total war for some 8 years.
In the early morning of the 1st of September, Lufwaffe launched massive concentrated strikes on the Polish air bases, communications and transportation hubs and army assembly areas. The actions of the Luftwaffe insued a certain amount of success. Even though it didn’t destroy the Wojska Lotnicze i Obrony Powietrznej - Polish Air Force –, or WLOP, on the ground, it nonetheless decimated the Polish air units and wrecked havoc on its ability to counter the swarms of German fighters and bombers who waged war on Poland from above.
At the beginning of Fall Weiss the Luftwaffe was a truly formidable and well-oiled machine of war. Its basic strength was some 350,000 men, of which some 200,000 were in the air force itself, 90,000 were in the FlaK units and 60,000 were in the air signals units. Luftwaffe had a strength of just below 4,000 operational aircraft, including some 2,300 frontline units - 700 medium and heavy bombers and nearly 1,500 fighters - and some 500 transport aircrafts - mostly the venerable and tried 3-engined Junkers Ju-52.
In comparison the Polish Air Force numbered about 900 aircraft of all types, most of which were obsolete. All of the Polish fighters, however, were of a relative modern design and made in Warsaw by a state-owned company called the PZL – short for Polish Air Works. The Polish Air Force was under the direct control of the Polish Army and mostly limited to ground support missions, which would harm it when faced with the air-to-air combat trained Luftwaffe pilots. The Polish pilots were well-trained and got the most out of their aircrafts, but could not overcome the size, skill and determination af Wever and Milch’s Luftwaffe.
Even though Milch saw the Luftwaffe’s very vertical organization in four separate territorial commands, based on the Flutflottes, as a inbuild weakness – he apparently would have liked a system closer to that of the British with a horizontal organization, with commands for fighters, bombers, air defense and ground observers - the system nonetheless worked. The organization got somewhat cumbersome when used to project power beyond the borders of the Third Reich, but the versatility, skill and adaptability of Luftwaffe’s personel at all levels more than made up for this. Furthermore the increased coordination wihtin the Wehrmacht between Army, Navy and Air Force gave the German military an invaluable edge when combat was finally joined and the war started.
Luftflotte – Air fleet – 1 under Air General Udet went into action in support of Generaloberst - Colonel General - Fedor von Bock’s Army Group North as it blitzed its way through the Polish Corridor to Danzig. Air General Löhr’s Luftflotte 4 struk out in support of Generaloberst Gerd von Rundtstedt’s Army Group South as it moved out from its postions in Silesia, Moravia and Slowakia.
All the Poles could do was to pray to the All Mighty, that the Western Powers would help them. Sill, no-one in Warszaw truly believed or trusted that the leader of the western powers, the British PM, Neville Chamberlain - the very same man who had prevented a Polish mobilizaton -, would rise to the challenge, and events proved them right. The British and French did, however, declare war on Germany on the 3rd of September, but not much more. After 22 days of fighting it was all but over for the Poles.
The Fall Weiss-campaign had lasted less than two months and ended in the fourth partition of Poland. Luftwaffe had suffered the loses of some 280 aircrafts and 330 airmen of which some 100 were only lost, not killed, and used over half its stores of munitions, but compared with the Army’s losses, however, the Luftwaffe’s casualties were very low. The Army’s losses were surprisingly heavy, especially considering how brief the battle for Poland had been. German casualties total some 48,000 of which 16,000 were killed. Fully one quarter of the panzers the German committed to battle were lost.
It was far from an easy, nor cheap victory, but it did confirm to the commanders of the Luftwaffe that the German air force was extremely capable and a lot better than any other air force in the world. Soon the units began to deploy west…
A troubled Empire
London calling to the faraway towns
Now that war is declared-and battle come down
London calling to the underworld
Come out of the cupboard, all you boys and girls
London calling, now don't look at us
All that phoney Beatlemania has bitten the dust
London calling, see we ain't got no swing
'Cept for the ring of that truncheon thing
- The Clash, London Calling.
I’m diggin’ my way to something better
I’m sowing the seeds I take for granted
This thorn in my side is from the tree I’ve planted
It tears me and I bleed
- Metallica, Bleeding Me.
One might argue that the inevitability of another Great War lies more with the British than with the Germans. On the 28th of May, 1937, Neville Chamberlain became Prime Minister of Britain and headed a Conservative government that more than anything else became synonomous with the foreign policy that later became known as Appeasement. Hitler was no doubt a man driven be insane urgins, but Chamberlain was the man who could have stopped him – instead he would be the man who sold the world, quite literally.
Between 1937 and 1939, Chamberlain and his supporters in the Cabinet and in the Conservative Party felt that Germany had been badly treated by the Ententé in the aftermacth of the Great War – later to be known as World War I. Chamberlain therefore thought that the German government had genuine grievances and that these needed to be addressed and rectified. The British Government therefore agreed to most of the German territorial demands and thus spurred Hitler on…
Furthermore Chamberlain apparently thought, or believed, that the All Mighthy had given him his position, so that he could lead the world into an age of peace and all that. The fact that Chamberlain failed so misserably is naturrally in part due to the naked ambitions of Hitler, but there can be little doubt that Chamberlain and his peaceniks in the Government messed up royally so to speak. They tackled their foreign policy in a way that led to catastrophe.
Very few disagreed with Chamberlain, however, besides a marginalized Winston Churchill and Anthony Eden. Eden was at the time one of the few Conservatives who was opposed to Appeasement. Eden served as Chamberlain's Foreign Secretary for a while, but resigned in February, 1938, on the grounds of the Appeasement policy towards Hitler and the various other dicatators popping up all over the world. Unfortunately Eden was replaced by Edward Wood - Lord Halifax -, who was totally committed to the policy of Appeasement, and had a rather good relationship with the German government – perhaps a little to good. After his visit to Germany in November, 1937, Halifax, apparently was more than impressed by the visit. Halifax records in his diary: "Although there was much in the Nazi system that profoundly offended British opinion, I was not blind to what he (Hitler) had done for Germany, and to the achievement from his point of view of keeping Communism out of his country!"
Between 1936 and the outbreak of the war in 1939, Britain and several other nations were nonethelss beginning to consider the possibility of a coming war more seriously. The apparent rise of Fascism and other forms of dictatorship worried the so called Western Powers immensely. And Hitler and Mussolini’s obvious help to Generalissimo Francisco Franco’s Spanish Nationalists was another cause of great concern, which Stalin’s help to the Communist elements among the Republicans’s also were. Finally in March, 1939, Appeasement collapsed as the German Army seized the rump state of Czechoslowakia, eventouhg Hitler had declared his territorial ambitions satisfied at the Münich Conference. Now even Chamberlain and Halifax realized that Hitler could not be trusted and that Britain must prepare for war in ernest.
In early 1938, it was clear that the British re-armament programme was lagging behind that of Germany. Especially in regards to aircraft production and design. Churchill and, strangely enough, many Labour politicians were very critical of the Air Ministry. Again the blame lands squarely on Chamberlain’s shoulder as he insisted that re-armament should not interfere negatively with the normal economical situation. Lord Swinton, the Secretary of State for Air, could not in good faith accept the constraints placed on his ministry and resigned on the 16th of May, 1938. Lord Swinton was replaced by Sir Kingsley Wood. Wood was a lawyer who, by his own admission, “did not know one end of an aircraft from another!”
Still, the British government grew increasingly concerned about the strenght of the German Air Force, and in 1938 Vice Air Marshal Charles Portal, Director of Organization at the Air Ministry, was given the responsibility of beefing up the RAF and prepare it for war. Furthermore Air Marshal Hugh Dowding took command of Fighter Command. Dowding argued, that the Air Ministry should concentrate on development of aircraft for the defence of Britain rather than producing a fleet of basically useless bombers. A huge row ensued as Dowding pushed for an increase in Fighter Command funding by some 18%. Dowding’s propossal was sumarily dimissed as Bomber Command were proritized. The reason for this was actually quite logic, at least at the time, with a Luftwaffe made up mostly of fighters, why would Britain waste resources on fighters, when the threat to bombers were increasing? Many senior officials in the Air Ministry and in the RAF itself, believed that the air war should and must be waged offensively, and since the Germans were strenghtening their defenses, so must the RAF build even more bombers to overcome said defenses.
In September, 1939, Bomber Command consisted of 70 squadrons, some 1,170 aircraft - out of which about half were suitable for long-range operations. Fighter Command had 30 squadrons - some 460 aircraft. Besides that, the RAF had a measely 96 reconnaissance aircraft and a few hundreds other planes, trainers, transports and the like.
Battle of the Sea and Air
Laurels, human triumph, bestowments from the past
Victories don’t mean a thing if they don’t last
We are just marching towards extinction with blinders on our eyes
Jeopardizing everything we’ve lerned and come to realize
You call that wise?
- Bad Religion, New America.
Even on the waves there is fighting
Where fish and flesh are woven into sea
One stabs the lance while in the army
Another throws it into the ocean
Arise, arise seaman arise
Each does it in his own way
One thrusts the spear into a man
Another then into the fish
- Rammstein, Reise, Reise.
The Kriegsmarine had taken to the idea of a naval airforce with great entusiasm. And with good reason as the naval aviators of the Kriegmarine already had proven their worth duirng Fall Weiss.
Not surprisingly, the Kriegsmarine, or more presisely Operation Group East, had held an overwhelming superiority over their opponents in the Polish Navy, but both out of fear of mines and an eagerness to see their new air units in action, the OKM had decided to let the cocky young naval aviators of the Kriegmarine’s Luftstreitkräfte Kommando, KLK, lead the onslaught. On the 1st of September, the first opeartional squadrones of the KLK, three in all, attacked the still moored ships of the Polihs navy at its primary anchorage at Oksywie near Gdyna. The new second generation Fieseler Fi-167 torpedo bombers and some Ju-87 dive bombers (on extended loan fra OKL) had sunk two destroyers, the Grom and Bіyskawica, the minelayer Gryf and several minesweepers despite heavy anti-aircraft fire from both ships and land. Furthermore a pair of FW-200 Condor naval bombers had sunk two Polish submarines, the Orzeі and Ryd as they tried to escape the Baltic.
With these victories under its belt, the Kriegmarine not only helped finance the various training programmes of the Luftwaffe – as mentioned earlier basic pilot and aircrew training were under Luftwaffe’s aegis, and then specialized training would follow under the auspice of the Kriegsmarine -, but they also shared the burden of research and development with the Air Ministry and Luftwaffe itself. Two of the main areas of cooperation was heleicopters and RADAR.
All the way back in 1937, the OKM - the Kriegsmarine’s High Command - had considered making use of the emerging new type of aircraft and as the war began to loom ever closer, the OKM made a request for a naval helicopter capable of operating from its major surface vessels.
Several German inventors, among them most notably, Doktor Heinrich Focke and Anton Flettner, had been working on some rather sophisticated and promissing designs for a while. Especially Dr. Focke’s helicopter – the Fw-61 - got a lot of attention from both the Kriegsmarine and the Luftwaffe after several succesfull demonstrations in 1938 – one were Germany's much celebrated aviatrix, Hanna Reitsch, had flown the little machine inside the Deutsch-landhalle Sports Stadium in Berlin. In mid-1939 a testpilot, Kurt Beck, actually flew one of the new Focke-Achgelis Fa-223 Drache - Dragon -prototypes from a platform mounted on the KM Lützow – a pocket battleship of the Deutschland class.
After the successful conclusion to the Polish campaign, the Air Ministry, the OKM and OKL pooled their somewhat meager resources in an effort to develop and built a series of usefull prototypes for further evaluation and use by all three services of the Wehrmach. The Heer had shown some interest as well in these new machines, and the ever resource and money strapped Milch had been quick to include the Heer in the project. The project ended up under the daily control of Air Generals Felmy and Student. The energetic and visionary Student already seemed to have an use in mind for the helicopters…
The first real helicopter, the Focke-Achgelis Fa-223 Drache, was an extremely advanced design with impressive capabilities for its time. The Fa-223 was fundamentally an extension of the concept which had produced the smaller Fw-61 and employed a generally similar arrangement of twin counter-rotating rotors mounted on outriggers from the main airframe and driven by a fuselage-mounted radial engine. In the case of the Fa-223, however, the engine was installed amidships in the fabric-covered steel-tube fuselage to the rear of the 4-seat passenger compartment. The forward part of the cabin was a multiple-panelled enclosure made up of flat Plexiglas panels, and the aircraft was fitted with a tricycle undercarriage.
Soon, after having consulted with Air General Student, and the OKL, a more radical design was proposed; the Fa-284. Focke-Achgelis would produce a 4-rotor helicopter by joining two outrigger engines together in tandem with central fuselage centre-section. The large so-called heli-crane would be powered by two 2000hp BMW engines - that were synchronized which mat that the Fa-284 could work on one engine alone - and capable of lifting a payload of some 7 tonnes and was therefore able to haul such loads as armored vehicles and trucks… or 24 fully armed paratroopers form Student's elité combat units, the Fallschrimsjägers.
The most capable German helicopter developed during this period would , howevere, be the Unterseeboot Jaeger Fl-41 Grief - Griffin. At the end of 1940, it became apparent to the leadership of the Kriegsmarine, that the helicopters in the Navy's inventory – primarily the Fa-223 Drache and the lighter FW.61- were not of the size to accomplish anti-submarine warfare (ASW) missions. The Kriegsmarine’s own FW.61 was too small and the Lufwaffe and Heer’s Fa-284 on the contrary was far to large. Thus in late 1940, the Kriegsmarine began to look around for a new heavy helicopter to be designed specifically for the ASW role. In early 1941, Anton Flettner and his design bureau was awarded a contract calling for the building of three prototypes of Unterseeboot Jaeger Fl-41 Grief. The heavy, rather cumbersome machine used Flettners patented counter-rotating, intermeshing twin rotors in a tandem-rotor layout each drievn by twin-engines with an inertia damping system to reduce the shake of the control stick.
The three UJ Fl-41 Greif’s in the original contract were extensively tested on the deck of a cruiser with such encouraging results that work was speeded up and a series of 24 were ordered.
The Fl-41 Grief was powered by 2,400hp BMW 332A engines installed in the centre fuselage. The Greif had a flight endurance of nearly three hours. Armament was intended to include torpedoes, dept bombes, air-to-surface missiles as well as a dipping hydronphone – later sonar. Furthermore later variants of the Fl-41 Grief was equipped with a autopilot – developed at Peenemünde - which permitted motionless hovering for long periods. With a crew of four, comprising a pilot, a co-pilot and two hydronphone, later sonar, operators the Fl-41 was then the biggest helicopter to be ordered into production.
Helicopters were as mentioned not the only area of cooperation between the Kriegsmarine and the Air Ministry and Luftwaffe, and seen in retrospect far from the most important one. As air warfare became ever more important to the success of all the branches of the military and to the outcome of a given battle or war, RADAR began to seem like a very appealing subject of debate and research.
In Germany the development of RADAR had started back in the early 30’s in the Kriegsmarine’s Signals Research Division. The man responsible for most of SRD’s research was Doctor Rudolf Kuenhold. Dr. Kuenhold had originally helped develop sonar equipemt for the Kriegsmarine, and felt the same principles could be used in regards to focused beams of radio transmissions.
In March 1934, a radar apperatus using a continuous wave was used to detect a battleship in Kiel harbor. By May 1935, Dr.Kuenhold and his expanded team were working with pulsed radar. The Germans called the new technology FunkMessGerät (Radio Measuring Device) and soon had a working short wavelength naval radar, Seetakt, in operation. In january 1939, the first operational Seetakt-model was installed on the pocket battleship Graf Spee.
While Dr.Kuenhold and his research team focused rather narrowly on short wavelengths, other German scientists with interests in the field believed that longer wavelengths would be more effective. The result was two parallel lines of RADAR-development, one focused on short wavelengths for naval use, and the other focused on long wavelengths for early warning. The long wavelengths early warning RADAR would be known under the codename Freya, and would soon prove to be the most capable of the two initial RADAR systems.
Before Herman Göring’s untimely demise, there had been an intense interservice rivalry between all branches of the Wehrmacht. Now more often than not, the Kriegsmarine and the Luftwaffe cooperated in an attempt to save resources, time and money. As a result thereof, OKM invited their colleagues in the Luftwaffe to participate in the further development of RADAR.
Soon OKM’s Dr.Kuenhold worked side by side with OKL’s Wolfgang Martini. Their combined efforts resulted in the very reliable and usefull Heimdal RADAR. Over a 1,000 Heimdal-sets would be built and used by both the Kriegsmarine in coastal defense installations and, more rarely, aboard various warships, and as part of Luftwaffe’s Home Chain integrated air defence system. Furthermore it came to the attention of Wever, Milch and Raeder that Telefunken, a German electronics giant, was working under the direction of Dr. Wilhelm Runge on their own RADAR in early 1939, and had actually built a single, duplexed antenna pulsed radar for gun-laying for the Heer. With the help of their patron, Martin Bormann – who basked in the glory and successes of his clients -, Wever and Milch succeded in getting Telefunken's research put under the control of a department of the Air Ministry, that from then on would lead all research into the field of RADAR (as the minor company Lorenz soon discovered as the entire company suddenly found itself under Milch’s supervision).
A series of RADARS would soon be developed and put into production for a multitude of purposes. The FunkMessGeraet M-series was gun-laying RADARs for both the Heer and the Kriegsmarine – later a model (the FMG M-42 A through F Grugnir) would be used by the Luftwaffe’s FlaK-units as well, FunkMessGeraet Z-series were built for aerial detection use, both stationary and mobile and finally the most groud breaking of all the German RADARs produced during the war, the FunkMessGeraet G-series of airborne early warning and detection RADARs.
Lessons Learned and Choices Made
Onwards, onwards into destruction
We must live until we die
And the child says to the father
Don't you hear the thunder
That's the king of all the winds
He wants me to become his child
From the clouds falls a choir
which crawls into the little ear
Come here, stay here
We'll be good to you
Come here, stay here
We are your brothers
- Rammstein, Dalai Lama.
Now we’ve rewritten history,
The one thing we’ve found out,
Sweet taste of vindication,
It turns to ashes in your mouth!
- Megadeath, Ashes in Your Mouth.
Meanwhile in Berlin, OKW prepared for the new campaign with frequent nervous conferences. On 27th of September, a jubilant and highly exited Hitler instructed the Wehrmacht’s Commanders-in-Chiefs, that they should be prepared for an continuation of hostilities and prepare an offensive against France as soon as possible. Hitler, as he often did, fixed new dates for the invasion in rapid succession, but he bowed to the Luftwaffe’s requirement of no less than five days of guarantied fine weather so that the French air force could be destroyed, which basically meant that the invasion of France could not happen before at the earliest spring of 1940. The OKW sighed collectively in relief….
Both Wever and Milch, however, were acutely aware that time was working to Germany’s disadvantage, even with the improved and streamlined production set-up they had initiated. Intelligence put the combined British and French air strength at close to 4,000 bombers and some 1,500 fighters on the 1st of January, 1940. Out of those 5.500 aircraft about sixty percent were operational at all times (the intelligence estimate would later be proven to be grossly inacurate as the French Air Force was quite a bit larger). Of course the air forces of the Low Countries had planes as well, but neither of the two countries, or Luxembourg, really troubled the planners at OKL. OKL knew, from both its own sources and from Abwehr – the primary German Intelignece Agency -, that both Britain and France were purchasing as many aircraft from the United States of America as they could possibly get their hands on, as well as boosting their own production (by May 1940, French manufacturers were producing 619 combat aircraft per month, American firms were adding 170 per month, and the British were producing 368 aircraft per month. By comparison the Germans produced some 700 combat aircraft pr month during most of 1940), so it would only be a matter of time before the Luftwaffe found itself confronted by a numerically equal, or more likely numerically superior, enemy. Generally speaking, the French Armee l’Air didn’t concern the Germans as much as the British Royal Airforce did. Thankfully, both nations, especially the British, seemed obsessed with building bombers, epscially heavy 4-engined ones like the British Short Stirling or the French Farman 222. Rumours of a new British super-fighter caused a lot of worry in OKL as well as the appearance of deadly French Dewoitine-figther did. Again, thankfully, the first proved never to be built (after the war Dowding would rant on about this fighter, which apparently should have been called the Spitfire and would, according to Dowding, have been able to defeat any German fighter) and the second was never built in suffient numbers.
A Sonderstab – special unit – under OKL’s operations division soon did a study on Tactical Aims for the Luftwaffe in the Western Theatre of Operations with a separate focus on a prolonged conflict with Britain. Wolfram von Richthofen, who led the Sonderstab’s work, emphasized: “the equipment, state of training and strength of the Luftwaffe cannot bring about a quick decision in any war with Britain in 1939, but it is likely that a decision can be reached by airpower somewhere in 1940 if the right circumstance should arise! As we cannot expect to achieve anything more than a disruptive effect, we must aim for the destruction of most of RAF’s combat power and that of the RN’s ability to wage a succesful naval war due to our control of the air and that this will lead to an erosion of the British will to fight. Certainly a war of annihilation against Britain appears out of the question with the means at hand!” Both Wever and Milch felt rather confident, though, as the Kriegsmarine’s KLK grew in strength and had shown its capabilities in handling its anti-shipping duties. Furthermore the Me-109’s with their drop tanks was capable of reaching deep into British air space and thus providing the more vulnerable bombers with escorts. However, the He-111 bomber was thought to be somewhat inadequate in both range and numbers, but the senior officers in the OKL and the in Milch’s Air Ministry thought that fighters would decide the outcome of any conflict with Britain anyhow. As Air General Udet was quoted at the time: “Give our boys air superiority over the British Isles and the Tea Drinking Surrender Monkeys will sue for peace in a jiffy!”
In little more than 6 years, Milch and Wever had made the Luftwaffe into perhaps the finest air force ever. Several things still needed to be corrected, though. Luftwaffe’s command and control system was far from being perfect, furthermore the standard of blind-flying was not high enough and the various stockpiles – fuel as well as both spare parts and ammunition of all sorts - were dangerously low. Some steps was taken to correct this immediately, such as Lufwaffe forward observers and ground-to-air liaison officers with the avantgarde of the Heer’s units, a more streamlined system of communication with a central command and control unit for each Luftflotte and a centralized air defence for all of Germany – aka the Home Chain. The continuous improvements in RADAR by the research team working under the auspice of the Air Ministry opened up for a whole new range of opportunities, besides the Home Chain integrated air defence system. One was the concept of an airborne early warning and command and control aircraft.
The experimental FunkMessGeraet G-series of airborne RADARs were small enough to be fitted into a larger aircraft, so three Dornier Do-19 heavy bombers were fitted with the RADAR and an impressive radio suite. The Dorniers would provide airborne early warning and command and control functions for the strike elements of a Luftflotte. The idea was proven sound in a series of mock air battles over southeastern Germany in early 1940.
So sound actually, that Wever and Milch put Focke Wulf Flugzeugbau, the designers of the longe range FW-200 Condor, in charge of constructing a purpose built early warning and command and control aircraft. The plane, named FW-331 Eule – Owl –, would provide Luftwaffe’s Luftflotte and eventually smaller units with early warning, strike and interceptor control, search and rescue guidance and serve as a communications relay. The FW-331 Eule would be staffed with 12 men, all highly trained as they would be called upon to do on the spot threat analyses, exercise control of counteraction against air targets AND keep the rather volatile equipment running. The ungainly FW-331 Eule – it was a high-wing 4-engined aircraft with a multitude of antennaes and a huge parabolic disc containing the FMG G-11 Wotan RADAR suspended in a rotating suspension beneath the fuselage and an extremely weird looking multiple-surface tail unit - was designed and built in record time as the FW design team based it on designs already on the drawing bord. The FW-331 Eule was test flown the 23rd of March, 1941, far too late to participate in the Battle of Britain, but the lessons learned from designing the plane led to more of the older Dornier Do-19’s – in the process of being phased out by the newer Heinkel He-177 Geier – Vulture - being equiped with communication and RADAR technology to fulfill this role temporarily. The FW-331 Eule would, however, prove its worth over the Soviet Union in the years to come…
The usefullness of RADAR was proven beyond any doubt on the 13th of Devember, 1939, when the Seetakt-equiped pocket battleship, Graf Spee, engaged three British cruisers in the South Atlantic and due to its superior gunnery sank two of them and mauled the third quite severly. A panick striken British Admiralty vectored everything the Royal Navy had in the area in the direction of Graf Spees’ last know position, but the German warship had already moved on at full steam.
Another important issue for the Luftwaffe in late 1939 and early 1940 was that of airfields. The airfields had not been built with an eye to the size of the new generation of aircraft that was to come and was thus by far too small for its intended purpose. Albert Speer - Hitlers’ architect of all people, and a personal friend of Milch’s - and his organization had volunteered for duty immediately after the war had begun, but had been asked to concentrate on building the Reichs many new marvellous buildings, that Hitler so loved. Speer and Milch, however, knew each other from varuous social occasions and Speer suggested that his organization could be of use to the Luftwaffe. Various pre-produced concrete elements and the use of RAD-teams led by Luftwaffe’s newly created Construction Brigades – the name given for Speers organization when working for the Luftwaffe – soon constructed new and enlarged older airfields with impressive haste. During the invasion of France, Norway and to a lesser extend Denmark and the Low Countries, the Contruction Brigades would prove invaluable to Lufwaffe.
The short victorious war with Poland had shown that, while highly accurate, the dive bombing Stuka’s were not really all that effective, or safe, on a modern battlefield, so an initiative was taken to upgrade those in service and to replace them as soon as possible - which might take some time as the Luftwaffe was cronically short on resources. The first series of Ju-87’s were upgraded with two 37mm cannons, so they could stay on the battlefield longer instead of just making one bomb run, as well as being reduced to singler seaters and furthermore had the landing gear made retractable. The weight saved was used on armour plating around the cockpit.
Later most of the Ju-87’s would be replaced by the newer Henschel Hs-129, often referred to by it's nickname, the Panzerknacker -, close support aircraft. During and after the Battle for France, a more heavier armanment were demanded for the Hencshel. Some even suggested a 75mm anti-tank gun, but Luftwaffe kept with the tried and tested 37mm gun for anti-tank service with its planes in the name of standardization. During the merciless fighting on the Eastern Front, the Panzerknacker more than any other German plane would strike fear into the heart of the Soviet soldiers.
June 29th, 2006, 04:18 PM
We few, we happe few…
Steal dreams and give to you
Shoplift a thought or two
All children touch the sun
Burn fingers one by one by one
Will this Earth be good to you?
Keep you clean or stain through?
So wake up sleepy one
It’s time to save your world
You’re where the wild things are
Toy soldiers off to war
- Metallica, Where the wild things are.
Live in virtue, no desire
In the garve an angel’s choir
You look to heaven and wonder why
No one can see them in the sky.
- Rammstein, Angel
Eventhough the British PM, Neville Chamberlain, seemed very popular amongst the public (On the outbreak of the War public opinion polls showed that his popularity was 55%. By December, 1939, this had increased to 68%), he was seen as an uninspiring and somewhat weak war leader by many of the members of the House of Commons. Especially after the Graf Spee incident. The confidence of Royal Navy, and the Chamberlain government, had suffered a hard blow in mid-December, 1939, when the KM Graf Spee and three RN cruiser met head to head, so to say, in the South Atlantic. The KM Graf Spee sank two of the cruisers with what seemed like little effort and badly damaged the third. To boost both his own standing in the House and the morale of the RN, Chamberlain appointed Winston Churchill as First Sea Lord, thus placing him at the Royal Navy’s helm once again. Immediately morale amongst the sailors began to rise as “Winston is back” messages flashed across the globe.
Churchill had always viewed air power as an important, if not downright essential, part of modern warfare. So important that he, during his first term as First Sea Lord, established the Royal Naval Air Service – later renamed Fleet Air Arm - and an Air Department at the Admiralty. Actually, Churchill was so smitten with flight, that he himself took up flying, but much to his beloved wife’s joy, dropped the lessons after a series of crashes and near death experiences.
In the Autumn of 1939, the FAA consisted of 20 squadrons and some 230 aircraft. The success of the Kriegsmarine’s Luftstreitkräfte Kommando - KLK -, and Churchill’s cabinet appointment soon gave a new impetus to naval aviation as air powers deadlyness in regards to shipping was proven beyond doubt by the KLK during the brief Polish campaign. In the Summer of 1940, when war truly came to Britain, the FAA’s strenght was nearly doubled, but as we know to no avail.
Churchill and several of his key staff members in the Admiralty saw the FAA as vital to the protection of not only the Royal Navy’s warships, but also to that of civilian merchantmen. Britain's continual existance depended the merchant navy’s ability to keep the country fed and its armies supplied. The Royal Navy was seriously hampered in its ability to protect civilian traffic as there had been laid down too few destroyers in recent years. Once again Chamberlain and his government was to blame, but Churchill, now being part of that government, had to keep quite and make do. One way to make do, was to reinforce the FAA, and to get as many anti-aircraft guns installed on RN ships as possible.
In sharp contrast to the bomber-loving generals in the RAF, Churchill believed in a more balanced airforce, that not only included strike planes, but also fighters. As he said during a meeting in the Old Admiralty Building: “What good is a sharp sword, if one has no shield?” Desperate for some good modern planes Churchill commissioned a modern mono-plane fighter, of which the FAA had none, and a strike aircraft, to replace the aging Swordfish.
The chosen fighter was the Miles M.20. The M.20 was an all-wood construction and powered by a Rolls Royce Merlin XX engine, which gave it an acceptable, at the time, speed of some 460km/h. It had a good all-round visibility, and could attain a height of over 10,000 km. The Miles M.20 proved faster and to have a greater ceiling than the American Wildcat. It would, however, not enter service until after the armistice, but would see action against the KLK when Britain re-entered the War in ’44.
The second design chosen was that of the Blackburn Firebrand. The Firebrand was meant as a fighter, but after the commission of the Miles M.20, the Blackburn Firebrand was then redesigned as a fast torpedo bomber. The Firebrand was powered by a powerfull Bristol Centaurus radial engine. The Firebrand was a rather clumsy plane, but it could sustain a lot of punishment, which would come in handy during the secound round of the war from 1944 to ’47. After the end of hostilities in ’47, the Firebrand was decommisioned and replaced by an all-round jet aircraft, the DeHavilland Firefly.
Even as the FAA strowe to reshape itself, the RAF kept on developing its heavy bomber force. Heavy bombers was not, however, the only planes being built for RAF. A fleet of lighter and medium bombers were developed as well – mostly the Vickers Wellington and the Fairy Battle. All things considered, the RAF was not completely blind to the fact, that Britain had to have a defence against the Luftwaffe as well as being able to bomb Germany into rubble, so a fast, well-armed interceptor, the Hawker Hurricane, was also developed sidelong with an escort fighter, the Paul Defiant.
Until 1936, the Royal Air Force had operated either single or twin engine bombers. The growth of Luftwaffe and their development of heavy multi-engined bombers soon led RAF to consider building their own 4-engined heavy bombers.
The Short company had submitted a proposal for such a plane in 1936. Short's proposal would soon be accepted and the Short Sterling was thus born. The Sterling, which was to be the mainstay of the Bomber Command, was a 4-engined, mid-wing heavy bomber powered by four liquid cooled Rolls Royce Goshawk engines. It had a crew of 6: two pilots, an observer/navigator, radio operator and two gunners manning the nose and tail turret. Provision was also made for a remote control turret in the lower portion of the rear fuselage. Armor would be fitted along with sound proofing and even a toilet. In order to keep the takeoff and landing run within limits, Short's Chief Designer, Mr.Lipcombe, felt that the wing length should be enlarged from some 30 meters to around 40 meters. While this created problems with the size of existing hangars, the proposal was accepted. The enlarged wing span would later prove to be a very good idea indeed as the Short Sterling was able fly higher and longer than otherwise.
In early 1940, RAF was a deadly offensive force, at least on paper, as Bomber Command boasted 2,000 operational combat aircraft – out of which some 1,200 was heavy bombers. This was in sharp contrast to Fighter Command, that had less than half the strength of Bomber Command measured in numbers.
Battle of the Icy North
You take a mortal man
And put him in control
Watch him become a god
Watch peoples heads a’roll
- Megadeath, Symphony of Destruction.
Take a look to the sky just before you die
It is the last time you will
Blackened roar massive roar fills the crumbling sky
Shattered goal fills his soul with a ruthless cry
Stranger now, are his eyes, to this mystery
He hears the silence so loud
Crack of dawn, all is gone except the will to be
Now they will see what will be, blinded eyes to see
- Metallica, For Whom the Bell Tolls.
As the Germans overran Poland, the war seemed to fizzle out. This did not please the offensive minded Churchill, and he soon considered ways to bring the war to Germany. The successful sinking of the KM Graf Spee south of Iceland in February, 1940, not only gave Churcill a lot of political capital – the picture of him congratulating the crew of HMS Hood is notoriously famous amongst Churchill-defenders to this day -, but also – which would prove to be less fortunate - fueled his adventurism. Churchill soon began to ponder a limited blokade or even an invasion of Norway.
Despite objection by other members of the Cabinet, Churchill ordered the Royal Navy to deploy submarines and to lay mines in Norwegian territorial waters in order to interrupt the flow of high grade iron-ore from neutral Sweden to Germany. The iron-ore was vital to the German war industry as it was used to make, among other things, ball bearings. Churchill hoped the move would not provoke much of an initial respons in Norway, Sweden or Germany, since said countries were looking with growing alarm at the massive Soviet troop build-up in the Kola Peninsula and around Leningrad. The mining operation along with what was termed as aggressive submarine patrols was to take place in early March, 1940.
In Berlin, Grand Admiral Raeder and his staff at OKM was deeply worried, and their growing concerns about a possible British adventure in Norway peaked when Abwehr reported that enemy submarines were concentrated along the Norwegian coast and especially around the port of Narvik. On the 19th of Februar, Raeder stated, that he felt that somekind of British operation in Norway was imminent, and urged Hitler to take action in the matter. With Hitler’s somewhat reluctant acceptance, the OKM began to draw up plans for a counter-invasion of Norway – Operation Feldherrenhalle. F-Day was set as the 12th of March as weather and light conditions would allow for extended air and sea operations. Since surprise was of the essence, it was noted that the progressive shortness of the northern nights would preclude any offensive operations after the 15th of April.
Now the Norwegian debacle began to live a life of its own as both sides began to escalate their plans in respons to the other part's perceived moves and aims. The British Admiralty received intelligence regarding German intentions and moved up their own operations, as did the Germans when Abwehr noted a further increase in British activity in the North Sea and so on. Soon both parts planned full scale invasions and/or counter-invasions. In Oslo, the Norwegian capital, as well as in Copenhagen, the Danish ditto, military, intelligence and foreign service personel began to get increasingly troubled, if not downright panicky. The point of no return was reached when the Danes reported a German flotilla carrying a full division - apparently General Eduard Dietl’s 3rd Gebirgsjaeger Division - of mountain troops sailing on a northerly course out of the Baltic. At Home Fleet’s HQ, it commander-in-chief, Admiral Sir Charles Forbes, spurred on by Churchill in the Admiralty immediatley ordered counter measures to be taken. Soon both Kriegsmarine and Royal Navy ships steamed towards Norway, with the Germans holding a slight advantage in speed as they had departed first.
Many senior Royal Navy officers didn’t really believe that the Germans were about to invade Norway for real. They saw it as a deliberate rouse to lure the RN away from the real battlegrounds; the Channel and Atlantic. This was a misconception based on the Royal Navy’s own doctrine, as the RN would never initiate an amphibious operation on that scale without total control of the surrounding sea. Not surprisingly this contributed to the British lack of enthusiasm in the Norwegian Adventure, or Chuchill’s Folly as it was later labelled by reactionaries amongst the Conservatives in the House of Commons. It was, however, interesting to see that the post-war political alliance between hardline pro-action Conservatives – led by Anthony Eden -, and ditto Labour-men -, led by Attlee and Bevin -, already was beginning to take shape in early 1940, as they defended Churchill's actions. It would take some time to mature, but by ’43 Lord Halifax’ governement finally fell and war was soon resumed under the Attlee-Bevin-Eden trojka.
Back to Norway, in the early morning of the 12th of April, 1940, the Kriegsmarine launched a series of amphibious landings along the coast of Norway at Oslo, Bergen, Kristiansund, Trondheim and Narvik. The landings were headed by marines from the Kriegsmarine’s Kampfgruppe Hamburg, Kampfgruppe Kiel and Sonderabteillungs Tirpitz, Ingenohl and Bergmann and commandos from Abwehr’s Brandenburg-force. There were also airborne assaults by Luftwaffe’s new crack elité parachute brigades on Norway's airports at Stavanger and Oslo.
Air General Student’s new wonder weapon – the Focke-Achgelis Fa-284 helicopter - was also tested and proved to work quite well as airborn stormpioneers were landed on both Copenhagen, Oslo and Bergen’s coastal forts, which all lacked suitable air defences. Only as the Stormpioneer units replayed their succesfull operation in Belgium did the Allies rather belatedly learn what had happened to the suddenly silenced forts.
The helicopters were not the only new weapons deployed in Norway as the Heinkel He-177 heavy 4-engined bomber and Junkers Ju-88 medium bomber also made an appearance albeit not in numbers. Both planes proven to be fairly good designs that still, however, needed some work. Beside the new aircrafts, a new type of munitions was also used; the 500kg SD-4-H1 cluster bomb, which was used to deny the enemy ground or airfields. The SD-4-H1 contained 78 hollow-charge submunitions that could either penetrate an armoured vehicle or crate a runway. As an added bonus, so to say, some of the bomblets could be set with a timer, so they would explode later. This weapon would be used extensively in the French campaign and the Battle of Britain as well as on the Eastern Front.
The landings and air drops were supported by additional Heer forces either landed or flown in from Germany via hastely overrun Denmark – noted as the war’s quickest invasion next to that of Luxembourg. Within 24 hours after the undeclared start of hostilities, the Wehrmacht had three ready, if not whole, divisions and several kampfgruppen – battle groups – on the ground in Norway. Furthermore, and most important, the Luftwaffe had a number of operational airfields under its command – airfields that were being hastely expanded with the help of Speer’s men in the Construction Brigades.
This meant that the British forces would land on a hostile shore – most of the time as the areas earmarked for the landing of British troops where either overrun or in the process of being overrun – and under a sky dominated by the Luftwaffe and KLK. The German control of the skies cost the British dearly as first seen when HMS Renown and its accompaning eight destroyers under the command of Admiral Whitworth was spotted by a flight of KLK’s reconnaissance planes opearation out of Trondheim and attacked and sunk by a combination of dive and torpedo bombers immediatley thereafter. The lack of FAA and RAF fighters in the area meant that any British attempt to launch air strikes of their own was doomed – as the sinking of HMS Furious and her battle group proved beyond any doubt - as the Germans soon brought their superior and RADAR-guided C3I in form of both ground units and RADAR-equipped Dornier Do-19’s to bear. All in all, the British intervention in Norway was an unmittigated disasters as both naval, ground and air units got slaughtered by the Germans. Often the Germans used their naval vessels to lure the RN to attack, only to be counter-attacked by either Luftwaffe or the KLK.
The only real set back suffered by the Germans – besides the sinking of KM Gneisenau - was the catastrophic attempt to invade Iceland as part of Operation Feldherrenhalle. A group of fast transports were racing ahead of ther main invasion force to Iceland, where it was hoped that the 3,000 German troops aboard could take Iceland in a surprise attack. The ships, however, were spotted by HMS Hood and her mixed cruiser-destroyer escort and sunk with less than a 100 survivors.
From the beginning of Operation Feldherrenhalle to the end of the campaign in little less than two months later, a total of 370 ships carried over a 100,000 troops, some 16,000 horses, 20,000 vehicles, and more than 100,000 tonnes of supplies to Norway at a cost of under twenty ships. While the German losses were slight, the Royal Navy had suffered a major defeat and heads rolled in both the Cabinet (Churchill’s) and in the Admiralty (Forbes’ amongst others). Only by the slightest of margins did Neville Chamberlain keep his post as PM (mostly due of the lack of any serious contender than anything else).
I came, I saw…
Let us have peace, let us have life
Let us escape the cruel night
Let us have time, let the sun shine
Let us beware the deadly sign
The day is coming
Can we survive the blitzkrieg?
- Metallica, Blitzkrieg.
Lashing out the action, returning the reaction
Weak are ripped and torn away
Hypnotizing power, crushing all that cower
Battery is here to stay
- Metallica, Battery.
In most of the world’s capitals, including Berlin, politicians and senior officers alike looked at the Norwegian campaign with a mix of stunned fear and surprise. In OKM, Grand Admiral Raeder feared that the succes of the Kriegsmarine, or more correctly the KLK – the Kriegsmarine’s airforce -, would give Hitler some rather unreal ideas about its capabilities. In both the OKL and OKH, the commanders were more surprised than fearfull, but somehow they foresaw this success leading to more and more exagerated war aims. London was, however, without doubt, along with Paris, the capital most affected by the Norwegian disaster, or Churchill’s Folly. The Chamberlain government only stayed in power with the slightest of margins, as the opposition, with Churchill out of the picture for good, could not muster a viable alternative. Among the senior air force and naval officers a state of near panic was evident, as the deceisiveness of air superiority and the ability of air power to radically influence a given battle began to sink in. It began to dawn on several of the more visionary generals and admirals that the one-tracked focus on bombers, or offensive air power, was perhaps wrong, and that more fighters were needed to gain the apparent vital air superiority. It was, however, too late. Operation Feldherrenhalle had barely ended, but already the Panzers were rolling again. This time westwards…
The political situation in Germany after Göring’s death had not initially played out in Hitler’s favour as the reactionary forces, as the Nazis called them, within the armed forces seemed to strengthen. This was one of the reasons why Bormann had been so keen to built up the Luftwaffe, not to mentioned the fact that he himself benefitted politically from its succcesses, as it was the youngest and most loyal branch of the Wehrmacht. The Kriegsmarine had proven to be very apolitical, whereas the Heer was full of old-school Junckers and we-know-best-types. For a long time Hitler lacked the political power to settle the score with said generals, so he and his croonies turned to other means; they looked far and wide for trustwothy officers, not necessarily Nazis, but people whom the junckers in OKH and OKW at least didn’t like, promoted them and whenever possible put them in key positions. In early 1940, this had gotten men like Hausser, Guderian, Rommel, Schörner, Model and von Manstein into either senior command slots or other equally powerfull positions – the apolitical Erich von Manstein was for example head of OKW’s operational department, while Heinrich Guderian lead the Schnelltruppen – basically the Panzer forces – and the aging Paul Hausser was head of the OKH. Men like Rommel. Schörner and Model led the Armies bursting into France.
The invasion of Western Europe - Luxembourg, Holand, Belgium and France - was devised by the von Manstein-Hausser-Guderian trio. Basically it called for a diversionary attack, so to say, on Holland and Belgium in the hope of drawing the Allied Armies north, followed by a powerfull panzer force cutting through the Ardennes region, thus avoiding the Maginot line, and racing for the Channel Coast. If everything worked out according to the plan - Operation Hermann -, most of the Allied land forces would be caught in Belgium. The ultimate goal of Opr. Hermann was to force the British and French governments to seek an armistice and eventuallly recognize Germany’s claims in Eastern Europe and perhaps to rearrange the Franco-German border a bit here and there. After the impressive German victory in Norway Hitler’s lust for more grew, though….
In early May, when the weather was just right, Luftwaffe unleashed a series of attacks on Belgian and Dutch airfields. Swarms of primarily Ju-87’s, Ju-88’s and He-111’s, loosely escorted by Me-109’s, overcame whatever limited defenses the Dutch and Belgian air forces could mount. Within the first two days, the air power of mentioned countries were reduced to nothing, and the Luftwaffe turned to France.
The first operational squadrone of the new Henschel Hs-129 close air support, or CAS, aircraft took to the air during those initial assaults, as did the twin-37mm armed Ju-87’s. The idea of a heavy quick-firing gun instead of bombs proved to be nearly brilliant as the battle of Montcornet showed. An armoured counter-attack by the French 4th Division threatened to rip a hole in the German front, but the French attack got stopped in its tracks by continious air attacks by Ju-87’s and a handfull of the extremely deadly Hs-129.
France had, as Britain, focused on building an impresive bomber force, and thus neglecting the fighter arm of their air force. This proved to be a major mistake and the France Armee l’Air was completely unable to stop the waves of German aircraft washing in over its borders. Backed by a handfull of RADAR-equiped Do-19’s the German fighters made short work of any serious resistance put up by the French fighters, and the German CAS and medium bombers thereafter more or less roamed at will.
As the Stuka and Panzerknacker’s supported the advancing armies with both pinpoint and terror attacks – the mere sound of the howling Stuka’s often brought fear to the French soldiers -, and the medium bombers struck hard at rail heads, supply dumps and communication centers the French will to fight slowly began to crumble. The German air crews had had plenty of training and on-the-job experience performed their task with great success and haunted the retreating French armies. The combination of almost total air superiority, close air support and contineous interdiction was a winning one. The French were on the ropes from day one, to paraphrase Air General Udet, who along with his old partner from the Hermann Göring Legion’s adventures in Spain, Wolfram von Richthofen, headed Luftwaffe’s operations in Western Europe, albeit under the Chief-of-Staff, Air General Albert Kesselring’s, personal supervision, though.
The heroic exploits of the German pilots during the Battle for France would later be made into a very successful Riefenstahl-movie, Die Jungen Adler – the Young Eagles –, wich featured many of the most prominent young German aces, Galland, Steinhof, Lutzow and Mölders amongst others. The fighter pilots soon became the superstars and darlings of the Reich at the time. Adolf Galland’s cartoon painted Me-109 would win even more fame, and he himself rapid promotion, in the victorious Battle of Britain, where his entire squadrone, JG-26, would be named after him; the Galland Circus...
During the opening stages of the Battle for France, thousands of SD-4-H1 cluster bombs, which had proven so usefull and deadly in Norway, and its bigger brother the SD-6-G, was dropped on French roads and air fields with good results, to say the least. The submunitions ruined roads as well as runways and made the clean-up process expensive and costly because of the timer-set and rigged bomblets left behind.
The British and French air forces did, however, try to take the war to the Germans, but again the fighter-heavy Luftwaffe, along with its impressive ability to control the skies both at the front and over its homeland, proved to much for the inexperienced Allies and each attempt only increased the losses of their air forces. The only Allied plane to have some successes were the heavy Short Sterling, which at times were able to survive air attacks the lighter bombers could not.
In late May, 1940, the main Allied Armies had been trapped in a shrinking pocket in southwestern Belgium – around a coastal town called Dunkerque -, the French government had been forced to flee Paris as the city was enveloped by German panzers under the command of Hasso von Manteuffle – and had apparently begun to sue for peace in some form -, and RAF had relocated their last operational squadrones from France to southern Britain, soon followed by several French squadrones.
During General von Manteuffel’s crossing of the River Meuse, helicopers and fallschrimjägers were used to spearhead the attack. This early go at a combined arms operation nearly failed capastrophically as the airmobile troops ran into heavy fire from emplaced French 20mm anti-aircraft guns on the opposite side of the Meuse. All the employed Fa-284. Focke-Achgelis helicopters sufferede extensive damage, and a full third – along with their crews and compliment of 24 paratroops each - were lost. Luftwaffe were quick to glose this over, but Student, and the senior leadership in the OKL, never forgot the Meuse Incident…
Where the French government had begun to explore the possibily of an armistice, the Dutch and Begian goverments had already surrendered. The fall of the impregnable fortress of Eben Emael on the very first day of Operation Hermann had shaken the Belgians badly – General Student and his airmobile stormpioneers would all later be congratulated and showered in medals by an exuberant Hitler – who knew nothing of the Meuse Incident. Likewise had the airborne operations and Brandenburger-infiltrations in Holland along with the rapid German advances on every part of the front. With the Low Countries out of the picture, and France crumbling fast, the OKH and OKL concentrated on the remaining battleworthy remnants of the Allied Armies in Dunkerque.
At the same time an opportunist Stalin launched the long awaited invasion of Finland and the Baltic countries. The three small Baltics states were overrun without much of a problem, whereas the Red Army soon bogged down in Finland due to both Finnish restistance and its own incompetence. In the Mediterranean the Italian dictator, Benito Mussolini, began eyeing the French and British possessions in North Africa as well as Greece and Yugoslavia on the Balkans with evergrowing interest.
Dunkerque Bloody Dunkerque
There goes the siren that warns of the air raid
Then comes the sound of the guns sending flak
Out for the scramble we’ve got to get airborne
Got to get up for the coming attack.
Jump in the cockpit and start up the engines
Remove all the wheelblocks there’s no time to waste
Gathering speed as we head down the runway
Gotta get airborne before it’s too late.
Running, scrambling, flying
Rolling, turning, diving, going in again
Run, live to fly, fly to live, do or die
Run, live to fly, fly to live. aces high.
- Iron Maiden, Aces High.
You can’t take back, that one mistake
That still lives on after life it takes
In that one day, that changed our lives
And bitter memories are left behind.
- The Offspring, The End of the Line.
After the rapid and impressive advances by the German Wehrmacht in the opening stages of Opeartion Hermann, the French government found itself forced to flee Paris and soon initiated armistice-negotiations. Meanwhile the French ground forces in central and southern France continued to resist along with the French 1. Army around Lille, that basically were caught alongside the British Expeditionary Force in the Dunkerque Pocket in Northwestern France - the last remnant of the Allied forces in Belgium had either given up or been pushed south into France by General Paul Hausser’s German 6th Army in mid-May.
There was one bright spot seen from London, though, and that was Royal Tank Regiment performance against General Walther Model’s Panzer forces near Arras. For some time it seemed like the Royal Tankers and infantry troops from the Durham Light would stop the Germans and reverse the tides of war (at least in that area) for the time being. The British Matilda’s seemed superior to anything the Germans had, which led to some later misconceptions regarding the value of the Matilda tank. Fast and deceisive action by the Luftwaffe’s cannon armed Stuka’s and some of the increasingly popular and called for Panzerknacker’s quickly put out that last glimmer of hope. Left on the Arras-battlefield was some 70 burning British tanks and numerous armoured personel carriers along with lorries and heapes of dead men. General Model later decorated several men from the ground-to-air liasion command, who had put themselves in the thick of battle to vector in close air support. The actions of said men, and Luftwaffe FlaK crews – calmly having turned their deadly 88mm AA guns at the onrushing British tanks and thus throwing in their lot with their Heer comrades -, did much to create an unbreakable bond between the Heer and Luftwaffe – as later seen in the Eastern War.
The catastrophical Battle of Arras and the campaign in France in general finally led to the Chamberlain governments downfall as Labour, the Conservatives, Eden’s War Party and Lord Halifax’s Oldguard Tories, and the Liberals, led by the Chamberlain-critical Clement Davies, found the present PM wanting to say the very least. Precious time was lost while Atlee, Bevin, Eden and Halifax-supporters in the House of Commons tried to find a new compromise candidate for PM. For some time Eden hoped to be the man, as did Labours’ Clement Atlee, but after nearly a week of at times quite heated debate, Lord Halifax – having the King’s backing – emerged as the new Prime Minister.
Once at the helm, Lord Halifax found the situation on the Continent to be worse than expected – the French 1. Army, and the BEF itself, were being hammred and it was only a question of time before the German Heer along with the Luftwaffe and the few Kriegsmarine units involved drove the Allied Forces into the ever shrinking Dunkerque Pocket – the French 1.Army had finally been dislodged from Lille and was now being routed towards Dunkerque. There was no question that the Germans would sooner or later drive the BEF and its French allies into the sea, or more likely force them to surrender. Halifax therefore ordered the implementation of General John Gort’s Operation Dynamo, a plan to evacuate of troops and equipment from Dunkerque.
The situation became even worse when General Sir Edmund Ironside, the Chief of the Imperial General Staff – CIGS – was shot down on his way to the Continent. General Ironside had wanted to brief General Gort, the BEF’s commander-in-chief, in person and get a first hand impression of the situation. PM Halifax blamed the RAF for not having provided sufficient escorts to CIGS’ flight, but in reality the flight of Me-109’s of JG 20 - led by yet another famous German ace, Staffelkapitän Walter Oesau -, had brushed the escorts aside and downed every single one of the Hawker Hurricanes along with Ironside’s transporter. The death of General Ironside would lead to some animosity between Number 10 and RAF’s Fighter Command, and more unfortunately to Halifax accepting Bomber Command’s proposal of City Bombing...
In the Dunkerque pocket, General Gort was in truly dire straites. His men were running out of supplies, especially the vital anti-tank and anti-aircraft ammunition, but also other essentials such as food and fuel. The Germans seeming hell-bent on conquering Dunkerque just kept coming. From the south the XIXth Panzer Korps under General Heinz Guderian – the overall German Panzer commander in person – battled its way with the usual haste along the Channel coast from Abbeville towards Boulogne, Calais and ultimately Dunkirk. Moving south from Belgium, the German 6th Army continued its advanced as well, but was slowed down because of its lack of armour and motor transport – the infantry, however, moved forward with typical determination and was within artillery range of Dunkerque on the 28th of May.
The only thing keeping the Germans from overrunning the Dunkerque Pocket was ironically the French 1. Army, that had regrouped and now stubbornly stood its ground first behind the River Lys, and later behind the Yser as German forces outflanked their postitions. Several occasions of helicopter-scare, however, nearly sent the French troops retreating, but younger officers now held command in the 1. Army and proved to the world that the French could still fight and fight hard. The French resistance would be to no awail, though, as the British – even troops being repatriated from German POW-camps after the war - blamed the French, along with the Americans and Soviets, for their defeats.
Admiral Bertram Ramsay, who was in charge of Operation Dynamo, planned on using a combination of destroyers, transports and civilian vessels to evacuate BEF-troops via Dunkerques fine, but rather small habour. However, the harbour soon became unusable due to sunken and wrecked ships as Luftwaffe and the KLK pressed home their attacks again and again, while more and more Heer artillery were brought forth to take part in the mayhem. Admiral Ramsay therefore shifted focus to the nearby beaches and begun to evacuate troops from them instead. This had one serious side-effect – the beaches were not sheltered in any way, nor protected from air attack. Even though several AA guns were being placed and the ships themselves had been issued with more anti-aircraft guns – due to Churchill’s foresight -, the beaches soon turned into a regular slaughter house – the shallow water turning a rather omnious red colour – as low flying German fighters and the deadly Hs-129 straffed everything and anything that moved.
As part of the German attempt to prevent the escaped of the BEF and the French 1. Army, German planes begin to mine the Thames Estuary and Channel sea lanes as well as bombing British Channel ports. As the first British civilian bomb casualties are reported, the RAF attacks Rotterdam's refineries and tries to interdict the German Heer’s movements as well as Luftwaffe’s infrastructure, but once more find their light bombers no match for the superbly led and controlled Luftwaffe. The German attacks on British ports, however, prompt Halifax to give RAF’s Bomber Command the final go ahead on their City Bombing-scheme. Within a fourtnight waves of Short Sterlings and the new Manchester heavy bomber will begin to bomb German cities without any regard to civilian casualties.
Between 26th of May and 2nd of June, 1940, the Royal Navy tried its best to bring back as many British troops as possible. Their task was doomed from day one, however, as the Germans dominated the sky above Dunkerque completely and extensive mining operation forced the Britsih ships to use only three approaches - X, Y and Z - as well as running at reduced speed. Still, the gallant sailors carried on with suicidal recklessness and bravery.
A typical example of the near chaos in those dark days are the sinking of the British destroyers HMS Wakeful, Grafton and Comfort on the 29th of May. HMS Wakeful was hit and sunk by a torpedo from the German Schnell-boot, S30. HMS Grafton, which was nearby, tried to rescue the sailors from HMS Wakeful, but is itself hit by another torpedo from S30. As HMS Grafton begin to sink, yet another British destroyer, HMS Comfort, moves up to help, but HMS Grafton opens fire on her in the mistaken belief that she’s a German ship. The dying HMS Grafton actually sinks the Comfort! 25 other vessels are also sunk by Luftwaffe and Kriegsmarine air crafts near Dunkirk on this day.
The losses around Dunkerque are not the only serious losses suffered by the Royal Navy in May. Patrolling near Iceland, the British battleship, HMS Warspite, is engaged by a German U-boot, U-46, and damaged extensively. HMS Warspite is later sunk by a flight of KLK FW-200 Condors flying from the newly established KLK base at Narvik as it desperately tries to reach a safe port. One of the Condors are downed by anti-aircraft fire from Warspite and one of her destroyer escorts, while the two others are damaged. Condor pilots will, however, continue to make low-flying attacks on warships for the rest of the war as it is the only way to ensure a kill.
In the early morning of the 3rd of June, 1940, the three senior British Generals – Gort, Brooke and Montgomery - along with their grimfaced troops finally surrenders as German infantry heads into Dunkerque itself from both north and south.
All in all some 600 ships of all sorts – even civilian vessels -, participated in Opr.Dynamo, and some 200 were sunk by air attacks, mines or Schnell-boote attacks. Adding to that, the RN lost 18 destroyers – nearly half the number committed-, 12 transports and even 2 cruisers, that had tried to give fire support to the retreating ground troops. In the end, Royal Navy and civilian crafts brought some 25,000 men home from Dunkerque – it had been a devasting disaster.
The RAF, be it Bomber Command or Fighter Command, played litlle role in Opr. Dynamo as the Luftwaffe were able to intercept them either to the south or out over the Channel. Thus the catastrophe at Dunkerque further alienated RAF as both troops and sailors felt let down, to state it rather politely, by Fighter Command. Admiral Ramsay would later write an infamous book , Betrayed, where he solely lay blame for the Dunkerque disaster on the shoulders of RAF.
The French General Weygand, having seen the British abadoning, or trying to abandon, the French, resigned his position as did the French Prime Minister, Paul Reynaud. On the 5th of June, Phillip Petain, the hero of the Great War, took power and immediately and without further ado accepted German peace terms. Under the terms of the armistice, northern France and the regions north of Vichy – Petain’s seat of government - came under German occupation. Luftwaffe’s Construction Brigades soon swarmed over the place, building new airfields and enlarging older ones as thay had done in Norway and Denmark.
During the Battle for France nearly 2 million French soldiers were taken prisoner. An estimated 420,000 Allied soldiers, mostly French, were killed defending France whereas only some 35,000 German soldiers had lost their lives during the invasion.
The British and French, both politicians and military officers alike, had seriously underestimated the strength of the German arms, and had payed the ultimate price for it. France was utterly defeated and Britain, once more, stood alone against a Continental superpower.
June 30th, 2006, 03:26 PM
A Cold day in Hell
Pride you took
Pride you feel
Pride that you felt when you’d kneel
Trust you gave
A child to save
Left you cold and him in grave
I see faith in your eyes
Never you hear the discouraging lies
I hear faith in your cries
Broken is the promise, betrayal
The healing hand held back by deepened nail
Follow the God that failed
- Metallica, The God that Failed.
Downed by law
Live in infamy
Rub you raw
Witchhunt riding through
This shortest straw has been pulled for you
Pulled for you
Pulled for you
- Metallica, The Shortest Straw..
The sky over Western Europa was not the only place where war reigned supreme in mid-1940, In Finland, the Red Army of Soviet Russia advanced steadily against a more and more desperate Finnish Army. By June, 1940, the Finns were on the ropes and had run out of supplies, ammunition and manpower, while the Red Army were well supplied, armed to the teeth and growing in numbers on a daily basis. Still, the gallant Finns fought on, aided by volunteers from Sweden, Denmark, Spain, Italy and the US. Both Sweden and Italy did their best to supply the Finns with much needed material as well as modern weapons such as anti-tank and anti-aircraft guns.
The Italian aid to Finland was a major point of controversy between Hitler and the Italian Duce, Benito Mussolini. Their disagrement actually grew to a point where it soured their otherwise fine personal relationship. It didn’t help, that both Count Ciano and Marshall Balbo were both strongly in favour of an independent and very pro-Finnish, or more correctly anti-Soviet, political stance. It was even rumoured that Ciano, who was Italian Foreign Minister, had recieved some feelers in regards to the Italian position in the Mediterranean from his British colleague around the fall of France in mid-40.
On the 14th of June, the Red Army finally came within range of Helsinki, the Finnish capital. The Finnish Army, now basically a broken force, nonetheless dug in and fought suicidally for every street, every house, and every basement. The Red Army soon proclaimed vitory, but the fact was that it took the Soviets a full month to subdue the city, and even then Soviet soldiers had to travel in numbers to be relatively safe. Nor would there be any formal surrender as it was believed that most of the Finnish government died in the ruins of Helsinki along with most of the high command – most notably Marshal Mannerheim himself. Besides, nobody really came forth to negotiate with the Soviets… Hundreds of thousands of civilians and some of the remaining army units from Northern Finland fled to Sweden and Norway after the fall of Helsinki. In Sweden, they were welcomed and placed in refugee camps and generally treated very well, but in German occupied Norway, they were interned and handed back to the Red Army without much ado.
The remainders of the Finnish armed forces still in Finland, however, went underground and continued the armed struggle – a struggle generously supplied by Sweden and, whenever possible, the British and Italians. Occupation duty, soon simply known as Bielaja Smertj - the white death -, in Finland would be most Red Army-conscripts worst nightmare for years to come.
The outside world, naturally, was quite horrified by the naked Soviet aggression, but equally, if not more, impressed by the tenacity and devotion of the Finns. None more so than the Fascists in Italy. Mussolini, who have just barely avoided getting into the war so far – having been faced with both Ciano and Balbo’s adamant opposition -, was stunned by Hitler’s all to obvious friendship with Stalin and the fiendish Soviet Union. Now Mussolini in earnest began to reconsider Ciano’s hint of a possible agreement with the British – most of Italy’s territotial ambitions lay wihtin the Vichy French colonial sphere anyway. Soon Italian and British diplomates – sometimes modern historians claim that Ciano and Eden actually met in person in Madrid, but this is not substanciated – got together in utmost secrecy in Spain, and hammered out a deal that would forever change the political landscape of the Mediterranean.
In early July, the Regia Marina sortied and headed towards the two major Vichy French naval bases in the Mediterranean, Toulon and Oran. Italian ground troops shuffled from east to west in Libya, while the Regio Esercito began to dig in rather ferociously in Northern Italy, and air units redeployed left and right as well.
In Tokyo, the German betrayal of Finland to the Soviet Union, as well as the carving up of Poland – a former Japanese partner and near-ally -, prompted some rethinking as well, especially after the British seemed much more accomodating in regards to Japan’s needs…
Terror from Above
You’re children of the damned
Your back’s against the wall
You turn into the light
You’re burning in the night
You’re children of the damned
Like candles watch them burn
Burning in the light
You’ll burn again tonight
You’re children of the damned
- Iron Maiden, Children of the Damned.
Still the window burns
Time so slowly turns
And someone there is sighing
Keepers of the flames
Can’t you feel your names?
Can’t you feel your babies crying?
Mama they try and break me
- Metallica, Hero of the Day.
The performance of the RAF was considered disappointing during Germany's Blitzkrieg assault on the Low Countries and France, to say the very least. The German arms simply seemed unstopable. By the end of the campaign, the RAF had lost more than 1,200 aircrafts, both fighters and bombers, whereas the German losses, through still painful, were far less, as only some 600 planes were lost in action – losses easily replaced by the finely tuned Luftwaffe production apparatus and training organization. Adding to the British losses were those of its allies; Holland, Belgium and France. All three nations had basically seen their air forces wiped out during Operation Hermann. Some French squadrones had escaped to Britain, though, but after the Franco-German armistice their crews were quickly interned.
The French air crews were not the only Frenchmen interned by the distrust- and vengeful British. Some 50 French warships had sought refuge at Plymouth and Portsmouth after the Fall of Metropolitan France. All of said warships were seized rather heavy handedly by the Royal Navy, but in some cases only after overcoming armed French resistance. Not that the British at this point minded teaching the treacherous French a lesson or two…
Nor were the French the only ones to suffer the wrath of the British. In mid-June, 1940, Lord Beaverbrook, the Minister for Aircraft Production, was noted to have said; “the sky is the limit (for plane purchases from the USA) as long as we pay up front and in cash!” With spendings running at some £2.5 million per day on aircrafts alone, Lord Halifax found the American merchant-attitude to be ungentleman-like and very distastefull. The cash-for-goods-policy of the United States would do much harm to the US-British relationship, and would in the end lead to Britain’s pro-Japanese foreign policy. Many Brits found that they got used by the American capitalists, who got rich and fat while British soldiers died in drowes and the civil population starved defending freedom and democarcy across the globe.
Meanwhile the preliminary phase of Battle of Britain began as Luftwaffe launched a series of attacks on Channel convoys and port facilities from their new bases in France and the Low Countries. The first major air strike were launched at the Swansea docks and at the Royal Ordnance Factory at Pembrey in Wales. Some 70 planes took part with the further aim of tempting RAF’s Fighter Command into battle. In a third attack, the Auxiliary AA ship, HMS Foyle Bank, was sunk in a German air attack on the docks at Portland in Dorset. Due to heavy losses at the hands of the Luftwaffe and KLK, the British was soon forced to suspend all future seaborne traffic in the Channel, and several RN surface vessels were rebased as well.
Air Captain Werner Mölders, leader of III/JG 53, and Germany's top ace with some 25 kills to his name, was shot down over the Channel during one of the many clashes between Luftwaffe and RAF Fighter Command in mid-40, and would be recorded as the first pilot to be rescued by the Kriegsmarine’s new Search and Rescue helicopter service. The helicopter was fast becoming a wonder weapon to most Germans. In OKL, however, the Meuse Incident was still painfully clear in memory, and as a result General Student and several helicopter designers were working on armoured and armed helicopters. Ironically, it would be the British that introduced the first so-called gunship when they re-entered the war in ’44.
As the first German u-boot base in France were opened at Lorient, Grand Admiral Raeder and his subordinate, u-boot Commander-in-Cheif, Admiral Dönitz, had a series of major arguments regarding the deployment and tactics of the Kriegsmarine’s u-boot arm. Admiral Dönitz wanted his boats to harrash British merchant shipping as in the Great War, whereas Raeder wanted the focus to be solely on warships. In the end, Raeder triumphed, as he was backed by the Luftwaffe and most of OKW as well. Lessons so far had taught the Germans that one cannot terrorize a nation into surrendering, one has to deprive them of the means to defend themselves, and in the case of Britain that meant to hunt down the ships of Royal Navy and sink them, while the ability of the Royal Air Force to defend British air space was destroyed, or at least seriously hampered. “Anyway, if this does not work, one can always try to starve them out!” As Raeder laconically noted to a furious Dönitz. Dönits nonetheless did as ordered.
As part of that overall strategy, Luftwaffe and KLK air units deployed to launch a campaign against various RN anchorages, especially the Royal Navy’s primary anchorage at Scapa Flow in the Orkney Islands. All of Luftwaffe’s heavy bombers were shifted to Luftflotte 5’s area of responsibility in Norway and basically used to carpet bomb Scapa Flow, while medium bombers and KLK aircraft were used to hit individual ships. Long range Me-109’s flew escort missions for most of the trip and hoped to catch intercepting RAF fighters, or anything else foolish enough to take to the air. A picket of U-boote were placed near the anchorage, backed up by smaller surface vessels. Besides hoping to slowly wear the Royal Navy down, this tactic served to spread the RAF, and RN, thin as Germany attacked on a multitude of fronts. This would only get worse for the British as the major surface elements of the Kriegsmarine soon sortied…
As they got hammered on sea, land and air, the Royal Air Force was finally beginning to understand the power of airborne RADAR and communications, as the Germans quite often simply handled the air battles much, much more effectively than the British. This was be seen all to clearly when the British Big Wing-formation encountered the much loser German formations based on the now rather famouse open finger four-formation. German commanders simply vectored in more aircraft or lured the British into ambushes set up either by other air units or by ground or sea based FlaK – now quite often RADAR guided. The war was not without German set-backs or losses, though, but generally Wever, Milch and officers at OKL had great faith in their pilots, planes and doctrine, not to mention themselves – history would prove them right, at least for now…
Eager to prove itself, and set it itself apart from the failures of Fighter Command – the loss of General Ironside still mared its reputation -, Bomber Command in the summer of 1940 unleashed its strategic air offensive against targets inside Germany, known as the City Bombing-scheme. The first target for City Bombing was Hamburg – a major port city on the North Sea coast. Figures varie, but between 500-600 heavy bombers - Short Sterlings and the new superheavy DeHavilland Manchester - attacked Hamburg and basically destroyed the city as fires swept through the Old Town and among other things set the fuel tanks at the docks ablaze. Later Bremen would be hit as well, but this time the German air defences were ready and on their collective toes, so to say. While damage was extensive, the bomber stream were intercepted repeatedly and almost 100 planes were either shot down or damaged beyond repair. Still, Bomber Command would keep on bombing German civilian targets throughtout the rest of the war.
Needless to say, Hitler was furious and demanded direct retaliatory strikes against British cities. Luftwaffe’s commander, General Wever, along with a more cautious Milch, flatly refused and offered to resign. Surprisingly Hitler relented, but now viewed Wever with suspicion – something that would come back to haunt Luftwaffe’s chief before long.
The appearence of high flyving and superheavy British bombers would lead the Germans to consider building a new generation of bombers themsleves, that had pressurerized cabins and an even greater bombload - and to speed up Kurt Tank's FW-190 project. At Junkers and Messerschmitt engineers begun to work...
And Battle is Joined…
Things are not what they used to be
Missing one inside of me
Deathly lost, this can’t be real
Cannot stand this hell I feel
Emptiness is filling me
To the point of agony
Growing darkness taking dawn
I was me, but now he’s gone
No one but me can save myself, but it’s too late
Now I can’t think, think why I should even try
Yesterday seems as though it never existed
Death greets me warm, now I will just say good-bye
- Metallica, Fade to Black
The horsemen are drawing nearer
On the leather steeds they ride
They have come to take your life
On through the dead of night
With the four horsemen ride
Or choose your fate and die
- Metallica, The Four Horsemen.
Britain was almost completely surrounded by German military might in the summer of 1940. Luftflotte 5 – the 5th Air Fleet - was based in Norway with its headquarter at Stavanger. Luftflotte 2 had bases all over Northern France and the low Countries with tis headquarter at Brussels. Finally Luftflotte 3 occupied bases in the rest of France with their headquarters set up in Paris. A German Luftflotte controlled both fighters and bombers in combined operations, and made ectensive use of combined operations, where bomber lured the RAF into action and fighters were thus vectored in by command and control aircraft or actually guided by RADAR-equied Dorniers or ground stations. In addition to Luftwaffe’s already impressive display of power, the German Kriegmarine’s air arm – KLK – had units based at Narvik, Trondheim and Ghent, that took part in the mayhem by round the clock anti-shipping operations. To top things off, German naval vessels, be it the dreaded u-boote or surface vessels of some kind made Britain lifeline even more precarious. Britain was indeed surrounded…
Since the old warhorse, the He-111, was slowly being phased out by the Luftwaffe, one of the Heinkel factories began to produce a variant solely for Kriegsmarine use - the torpedo carrying He-111K – and two staffel of H-111J’s were converted into torpedo bombers. This gave the KLK and even bigger punch. Furthermore the production of Gustav Schwartz Propellerwerke’s rocket assisted anti-ship glide bomb, the Gustav XX was given priority as its first use had proven so effective – sinking the battleship HMS Warspite. Luftwaffe also began to explore the possibily of a rocket assisted glide bomb, or just a remote controlled unassisted glide bomb, for their own use – such a weapon would be a exellent weapon of choice should one need to destroy a bridge or perhaps one single house without resorting to British tactics – after the City Bombing operations had begun anything involving large amount of bombs dropped from many planes were suddenly “British tactics” – Guernica had somehow been forgotten, it seemed.
As mentioned the Germans started what was to be known as the Battle of Britain with heavy attacks on Channel traffic, ports and linked infrastructure, later the German also began to raid deeper and deeper inland. It seemed that the German were intent on detroying the Royal Navy’s capacity to use and ultimately defend the Channel. Furthermore, Luftwaffe planners hoped to lure the RAF into a running attritional battle for control of the skies over Britain.
Up north, Luftflotte 5 and KLK units continued to bomb Scapa Flow and intercept traffic to and from the RN anchorage. While the British air defences were quite strong, the nearly round-the-clock attacks took their toll and casualties mounted, especially since RAF fighters were few and far between, needed as they were in Southern Britain. Extensive German mining operations also took place. Furthermore various Kriegsmarine units began to appear in the hope of either actually engaging RN units or at least to lure them out in the open where eihter air units or u-boote could get at them. The British unwillingness to fight under hostile skies, so to say, prompted the OKM to begin assembling their major surface units for a major offensive, and to force the sea trials of KM Hermann Göring…
The Battle of Britain now begin in earnest with an intense air battle over the Dover, as 400 German planes of various sorts strike the port city. RAF Hawker Hurricanes, among them the newest models with increased enginepower and a heavier armament, intercepts and are soon engaged in a life and death struggle with their arch-nemesis, the Me-109’s. The British claim some 60 Luftwaffe planes down for the loss of 26 RAF fighters. In reality, only 30 Luftwaffe planes, including a few unlucky bombers, were shot down, while the RAF had lost 39 planes, mostly fighters.
Because of RAF’s Bomber Commands attacks on German cities, Luftwaffe decides to shift their focus sligthly and try to hamper Bomber Commands activities by attacking their airfields, facilities and bomber producing factories. However, even under growing pressure from Luftwaffe, Bomber Command continued to strike back. The Short Sterling proved quite deadly, but suffered great losses to German interceptors and FlaK – especially the new RADAR guided 105mm and older 88mm the Germans had begun fielding in large numbers made a rather bloody impact on the bomber streams heading into Germany. Another plane that would lead its mark on air warfare, the superheavy DeHavilland Manchester, also saw action around this time.
The DeHavilland Manchester was a four-engine super heavy bomber and for a long time – until the Bristol York and the DeHavilland Lancaster in the 50’s and 60’s – the worldest largest bomber, and among the largest planes ever flown. When the Manchester entered service, it was one of the most advanced bombers of its time, featuring innovations such as a pressurized cabin, a central fire-control system, and remote-controlled machinegun turrets. It was designed to be a high altitude daytime bomber and proved rather successful at this. It was without doubt the most succssfull bomber used by RAF’s bomber Command during the ’39-’40 War, but is probably best known for carrying the nuclear weapons used to destroy Nuremberg, Köln and Dresden, thus endeing the War in 1947. Unlike many other bombers, the Manchester remained in service long after the War. By the time it was replaced by Bristol’s York in the 1950’s, some 2,000 Manchesters had been built all in all.
Just outside Krakow, a newly promoted Oberst Werner Mölders were being introduced to his new command, and said commands new planes: the FW-190. Because of the British bombing canpaign, the FW-190’s development had been pushed forth with all haste and sufficient models were now ready for training purposses. OKL had, on Hitler’s order, gathered a selection of Germany’s best pilots for training on the new aircraft. Oberst Mölders, with a broken leg and strained wrist after his bath in the Channel, was to command the first unit in training. Damages that by the way did not stop the young ace from taking his personal FW-190 up for a test flight on his first day a Krakow. “It’s like flying like an angel, an angle of death!” his is later reported to have said. In the years to come, Mölders would become Germany's youngest general, and eventuelly end up as Commander of Germany’s air defences.
July 1st, 2006, 06:43 PM
We have no future
Heaven wasn’t made for me
We burn ourselves to hell
As fast as it can be
And I wish that I could be a king
Then I’d know that I am not alone
- Marilyn Manson, In the Shadow of the Valley of Death.
Join in my quest to leave life overturned
Spanning the world wave of doom
Spewing out death with the evil I’ve churned
Awaken the dead from their tomb
Love turns to lust the sensations I’ve felt
Exploring the pleasures of sin
Making the bast of the cards I’ve been dealt
Adjusting the odds so I win
Unleash all my burning wrath
Potential killing machine
Take down all who block my path
Enjoying all that’s obscene... born of fire
- Slayer, Born of Fire.
At the outbreak of the War, the French Navy had been, and still was, a strong and mighty military machine - a force not to be ignored. Between 1926 and 1939, two battlecruisers, seven heavy cruisers and 12 light cruisers had been built. The French battleships were either new or had recently been modernized. Furthermore the Frecnh Navy boasted some 140 destroyers and submarines. A fleet of this size could do a lot of damage to a naval power...
In late July, 1940, the most powerfull of two battle groups from the Regia Marina – Royal Italian Navy - positioned itself to launch a surprise attack on one of the French Fleet’s major anchorages. Nearly a third of said fleet lay at anchor at Mers El-Kebir – near Oran in Algeria. The French had recently capitulated to Hitler’s Third Reich, and in both London and Rome a lot of questions about the still mighty French Navy, not to mentioned the French themselves, were being raised. In London, the British Admiralty feared that the French Fleet might just surrender itself to Germany, thus giving the much feared and dreaded Kriegsmarine an upper hand in the coming naval war - something to be avoided at all cost the current highly critical situation taken into consideration.
The Italians, most notably Mussolini and his inner circle, felt somewhat betrayed by Hitler and wanted some spoils of war for themselves, and the just defeated French seemed the people to give the Italians an easy victory. The British fears taken into account, not to mention the secret agreements recently signed, the Comando Supremo had planned for a brief victorious war against a France still reeling from its defeat at the hands of the Germans. The main targets were Nice, Savoy, Corsica, French Somaliland, Tunesia and possible some of Algeria. First, however, the French Navy had to be pacified.
Early in the morning of the 19th of July, 1940, the Regia Marina began to bombard the French anchorage at Mers el Kebir and the main naval base at Toulon, where three battleships, seven cruisers, some 30 destroyers were moored as dictated by the recent Franco-German Armistice. At Mers el Kebir, the French commander, Admiral Gensoul, however, soon overcame his initial bafflement and ordered every gun to open up on the Italians. First the heavy guns at the Canastel Battery, Fort Santoni, and the Gambetta Battery, plus the smaller guns at the Espagnole Battery opened up, then the moored ships joined in. The two present battlecruisers, Strasbourg and Dunkerque, tried to sortie, but got hammered by torpedo carrying Savoia Marchetti S.79’s. The gallant French resistance proved of little effect, as the Italians had the advantage of being able to move freely and had total air superiority. Soon the ships and shore batteries were beaten into submission, and after 5 hours of combat, Admiral Gensoul finally ordred the colours struck. At Toulon there was no surrender, only a general slaughter as the Italians hammered the helpless French defenders from both sea and air. Furthermore, it seemed that several ships mysteriously blew up. Later it was discovered that Italian naval commandoes had placed demolition charges on the ships mere hours before the attack.
Some 30 Italian divisions launched a head-on assault on the Franco-Italian border, while other units crossed into Tunesia, French Somaliland and landed on Corsica. The only operation to go according to plan was the landing on Corsica. The Island fell without much of a fight, but occupation duty on the anexed island soon proved to be nearly as harrowing an experience as the Soviet Russian occupation of Finland. The ease of Corsica’s conquest would not be repeated as the French defended themselves with great ferocity, but as allways with little skill elsewhere. In French Somaliland, General Nasi soon overcame the French defenders, but he paid a steep price in blod. At the Italo-French border the campaign soon stalled completely and so did the initial attack into Tunesia – the French fortifications at the Mareth line were simply to much for the Italians, who lacked artilly, be it heavy or light. Italo Balbo devised a daring plan, however, and used air transports to land and air drop troops behind the Mareth line, which did - as planned - cause panic among the French, who soon began a full retreat from their positions. Italian infantry immediately began to advance…
One thing that finally tipped the scales of war in Italy’s favour was the use of air power. During the Franco-German War, the French airforce - Armee de l'Air - had been all but destroyed, while the Italian Regia Aeronautica – Royal Italian Airforce – had grown in both numbers and power as the very newest designs entered service – the lessons of Luftwaffe taken to heart by the fathers of the modern Italian air force.
As the Great War grounded to an end in 1918, the various Italian air units had nearly 2,000 planes on their collective rosters. Most of them was of foreign make and design. However, where bombers were concerned, the Italians kept up and the huge Caproni bombers were as modern as any other bombers made at the time – or so the Italians believed at least. In the following years the Italian aircraft industry began to develop its own designs - a trend that became even more prevalent after the Fascists take-over. As in Germany some ten years later, the new regime created a new independent air force. On the 28th of March, 1923, the Regia Aeronautica were formally born. In the years to come Italy produced a vast and impressive range of aircraft covering every aspect of moden air warfare. Furthermore the Italian air industry designed revolutionary panes that time and time again broke speed, altitude and range records. The men of the Regia Aeronautica and the Facists Party, as well as ordinary Italians took great pride in their achivements. The numerous successes gave the Regia Aeronautica a unic status amongst the branches of the Italian Armed Forces, and men like Italo Balbo and Mecozzi used that status to built a very powerfull elité air force based on the German Luftwaffe with well-trained pilots and the best equipment possible, even if it meant fewer numbers – an eternal bone of contention between Balbo and Mussolini…
Now the Regia Aeronauctica could roam at will, and most certainly did so. In 14 days, the Regia Aeronautica conducted some 800 bomber sorties and dropped over 300 tonnes of bombs, while some 1,400 fighter sorties were flown.
In the end, roughly 12.000 French soldiers, 5,000 sailors and some 500 civilians lost their lives. The event permanently tarnished relations between Italy and Germany, not to mention the relations between Italy and France – not that anybody really cared about the feelings of the French. The only sea– and battleworthy part of the French Navy was the squadron based at Dakar plus the units in Indochina. The warships at Dakar soon steamed towards the Indochinese bases, where they would be sunk by the Japanese in mid-1941. Italy gained pretty much all of their objectives except Nice.
The not so brief, but yet victorious war had driven home some of the lessons already learned by studying the all-conquering German Luftwaffe. Better and more powerfull engines were needed as well as better armament and armour. A secret Italo-British programme was established via Spain and Turkey, and soon designs for planes such as the Reggiane Re.2000 and the Macchi MC.200 were studied in London, while blueprints for powerfull Rolls-Royce engines as well as heavy machine guns and machine cannons were beings examined with great interest in Rome.
In the Far East, the Imperial Japanese Navy – Nihon Kaigun – was from the early days of flight extremely interested in naval aviation. Still, its more conventional surface elements – the battleships - were incredible powerfull and all in the Nihon Kaigun was a force to be feared by all nations with interests at sea. It was about to become even more dangerous. Its naval aviation arm, based on 10 aircraft carriers and nearly 2,000 suberbly trained naval aviators – arguably the finest pilots in the world -, played a key role in Japanese naval doctrine and it was thus natural that the IJN headquarters in Tokyo paid a lot of attention to the havoc the German Luftwaffe wrecked on the British Royal Navy.
Basically, the event that took place in far-away Western Europe in the summer and autumn of 1940 prompted the Nihon Kaigun, in spite of fierce conservative opposition, to form the Kido Butai – Air Fleet. The Kido Butai composed of all ten of the Nihon Kaigun's carriers, be it fleet or light carriers. With the creation of the Kido Butai the far-sighted commanders and planners of the Imperial Japanese Navy had at its disposal a mighty tool of war. The concentrated air power gathered in the Kido Butai alone could – theoretically, at least for now – sweep all opponents from the sea. Later as the Japanese grew more confident of the idea of the Air Fleet, doctrine shifted from the old tried and tested battleline based on heavy ships of the line to lighter more mobile, but surprisingly deadly, carrier task forces comprised of three fleet carriers and two light carriers. The exact makeup of the carrier task forces would varied a great deal in reality, though. Especially as new technology helped make both the carriers themselves and their air complement more powerfull and deadly.
Politically the Japanese also sought out new ways to deal with their troubles. As mentioned, a great distrust of Germany and the Soviet Union manifested itself after the annihilation of the Polish state and the occupation of Finland. It was thus logic to seek new, or rather old in this case, allies. British and Japanses diplomats soon began to hold frequent meetings, where new lines were drawn on maps of China and South East Asia…
A brief respite
Hey you, see me, pictures crazy
All the world I’ve seen before me passing by
I’ve got nothing, to gain, to lose
All the world I’ve seen before me passing by
You don’t care about how I feel
I don’t feel it any more
- System of a Down, Atwa.
Hey, I’m feeling tired
My time, is gone today
You flirt with suicide
Sometimes, that’s ok
Hear what others say
I’m here, standing hollow
Falling away from me
Falling away from me
Day, is here fading
That’s when, I would say
I flirt with suicide
Sometimes kill the pain
I can always say
’it’s gonna be better tomorrow’
Falling away from me
Falling away from me
- Korn, Falling away from Me.
The brief Franco-Italian war gave ground for some concern in Berlin, but no measures as such were taken – other than a few extra units deployed to the Italo-German border and some diplomatic notes being exchanged - as Hitler and the German leadership in general were pretty certain that the Italians were not about to declare war on Germany or do anything equally foolish. The warming relationship between Germany’s two former Axis partner, Italy and especially Japan, and Britain was still a matter of strategic importance and concern as British resources could now be devouted to the defences of the British Isles instead of being spread thin. Still, it would be some time before the new strategic situation would manifest its ramnifications for real and as of now the British were on the ropes as both the Kriegsmarine and Luftwaffe for the time being attacked the Royal Navy, the RAF and British infrastructure and industry more or less at will.
It was, however, a very short time. Not that the British resistance in general was mounting. RAF Fighter Command was forced to relocate some of its already meager assets north to deal with the strategic attacks on Scotland and the various Royal Navy anchorages and bases, and to give some added protection to Bomber Command’s bases, that was coming under increasing attack from both German aircraft as the British bombers streams formed up, and from bombing both with ordinary munitions and the new devilish cluster bombs. All in all, the air defences of Southern Britain weakened. It was even rumored the RAF Fighter Command was nearly forced to pull some of their fighters all the way back to Northern Ireland for refits and recuperation.
Luftwaffe’s problems was of another kind, though. They were wearing themselves down. Since the outbreak of the war in September, 1939, the pilots, as well as air and ground crews had been held at nearly constant combat readiness, not to mentioned seeing action 24/7. Even with the highly successful and expanded pilot training organiation set up by Wever, and Milch’s streamlined production apparatus, the German Air Force was running itself into the ground. Much to Hitler’s fury, and his own annoyance, Wever had to call a temporay halt to major operations in July, 1940. Luftwaffe would use the brief downtime to utmost effect, and return to the skies over Britain even stronger than before, armed with newer and even deadlier weapons as well as planes – factories now produced FW-190 fighters, Ju-88 tactical bombers and He-177 strategic bombers in numbers…
Luftwaffe was not the alone with its woes. The Kriegsmarine’s Air Force - the KLK - had suffered heavy losses in material and had spend an impressive amount of munitions – especially the new and hard to replace glider bombs and air dropped acoustic mines and torpedoes. The loss of pilots and air crews had so far been fairly light as the contested sea gave the Kriegsmarine the chance to use surface vessels to save their downed pilots as well as the new heliborn search and resue service – famed for rescueing a very wet Werner Mölders. Furthermore, the early introduction of Kriegsmarine aircrafts had led to several innovations, such as suits, rafts, beacons and other survival equipment, designed to keep air crews alive in the often freezing waters of the North Sea and the Baltic.
Air General Wever, and the OKL in general, having been somewhat disappointed with the value of intelligence gathered by Luftwaffe’s in-house intelligence service, sacked its head, Oberst Josef Schmid and had his office merge with that of Signals. The new overall leader, newly promoted Air General Wolfgang Martini – of RADAR fame-, would prove a great boon in the months to come. The promotion of Martini, and Luftwaffe’s emphasis on SigInt, was something of an omen of things to come; air warfare was getting increasignly dependent on electronics of all sorts as would be seen in the next round of the Battle for Britain.
At the same time Wever used the downtime to promote a series of young, aggressive fighter aces to JG-commanders, as well as setting up some new Lehrgruppen for respectively intruders and night fighters. Once more Wever, backed by nearly all his subordinates, clashed with Hitler over the need to dedicated valuable ressources to defensive instead of offensive actions only, but he succeded in getting his way, primarily by using the need of intruders as the prime argument – besides, it seemed the idea of a powerfull long range twin engined fighter played well with some secret planes being drawn up by the OKW. Wever now began to look around after a suitable aircraft design and found an old Kurt Tank-design; the twin engined FW-187 Falke - Falcon. The design would need some work, but would eventually – after an incredible brief time, even in spite of Milch’s somewhat irrational opposition to the project - reemerge as the FW-220 Raubvogel. The Raubvogel – Bird of Prey - armed with four of the recently developed Mk108 30mm cannon. The 30mm cannon would earn a fearsome reputation first on the Eastern Front, but also among the British when battle was joined again in ’44. The German air crews rather fittingly named the Mk108 the Pneumatic Hammer because its heavy distinctive firing sound. Such was the power of the Pneumatic Hammer that only a short burst was need to bring down even a De Havilland Manchester. The FW-220 was driven by two immensely powerfull 2,000hp Daimler-Benz supercharged engines and equipped with the new FMG G Hugin RADAR. The Raubvogel turned out to be a very versatile aircraft that could be used in both the role of intruder – Fernnachtjäger -, attacking the RAF bombers when thet were most vulnerable – forming up into streams or about to land –, or as a night fighter - Nachtjäger. Until the FW-220 would enter service, the equally versatile Ju-88 would make do.
Wever, knowing full well Hilter had taken a dislike to him – the two men had butted heads a few times too many recently - and most likely had him pecked for replacement sometime soon, tried to difuse the mounting tension between OKL and the Führer’s HQ/OKW by appointing the fawning, but otherwise fairly intelligent and capable Hans Jeschonnek as his personal liaison to Hitler’s FHQ. Air General Jeschonnek’s devotion to Hilter, if not Nazism, did mollify Hitler’s suspicion and growing dislike of Wever to a certain degree, and thus brought the Luftwaffe commander a new lease of life, so to say. Wever hoped, he could remain in place as C-in-C of the Luftwaffe at least until the Battle of Britain was, if not over, then for all purpose won. Looking at his selection of commanders, Wever picked – with the assistance of Milch in the RLM - two as his possible replacements and began to groom them both as his eventual replacement. Both men were hard and stubborn – just the kind of man who could, and more importantly would, stand up to Hitler-, but extremely efficient and skilled. The two men, Albert Kesselring and Wolfram von Richthofen, so far had little or no idea of their Commander in Chief’s plans for them. Wever personally favoured von Richthofen, as Kesselring sometimes were a bit too stubborn and set in his ways, but the former had Hitler’s attention which would be a tremendous help. Both men would nevertheless rise to prominnece in the years to come, one as C-in-C of the Luftwaffe, as predicted and planned for by Wever, the other as Air Minister after Milch’s assention to Armaments Minister after the Paris Peace Accord had been signed in late ’40.
The Luftwaffe and its sister organization, the KLK, was not the only branch of the Wehrmacht that had problems. Admiral Raeder, the C-in-C of the Kriegsmarine, had faced contineous problems with Admiral Dönitz, the Führer der Unterseeboote – chief of submarines -, over tactics and overall strategy in regards to submarine warfare as well as the constant divergence of funds from the – in Dönitz somewhat biased eyes – all important U-boote to the Kriegmarine’s Luftstreitkräfte Kommando - KLK. Dönitz was hellbent on attacking British mercant shipping with U-boote just as in the last war – a strategy that nearly broke the British, but also drew the United States into the war. Raeder, along with his supporters and the Luftwaffe leadership, wanted to focus on the destruction of the Royal Navy, or at least make the fight seem lost to the British public, by the use of combined arms – that is both surface ships, uboote and aircrafts. Furthermore Raeder, quite rightfully, feared that exessive use of the U-boote would draw the USA into the war with disastrous consequences for the Vaterland. Raeder, after yet another row, decided that enough was enough and replaced the willfull Dönitz with the more genial, but not less capable Hans-Georg von Friedeburg, who, as Dönitz, had extensive experience from commanding U-boote and had so far been the head of organizational part of the Kriegsmarine’s submarine branch. At the same time, Raeder used the opportunity to reorganize the submarine branch, and remaned von Friedeburg’s new post Befehlshaber der Unterseeboote – BdU -, instead of the old Führer der Unterseeboote, and promoted von Friedeburg to Konteradmiral – Rear Admiral. Konteradmiral von Friedeburg’s former post at Organization was given to Eberhard Godt, and the young, but highly aggressive Günther Prien was put in charge of Operations. The submarine branch was now ready to take full advantage of the weakened state of the Royal navy…
The British themselves used their respite as best they could. Air defenses were udgraded, airfields repaired, shelters dug, munitions hoarded etc etc. Furthermore, a new more powerfull version of the Hawker Hurricane saw the light of day – a new extremely powerfull engined had replaced the already quite muscular older one, and more armour had been added, along with a buble canopy and a 20mm machine cannons only armament consisting of six wing mounted cannons. This would prove to be the final version of the Hurricane. Sadly, this new constellation made the Super Hawker rather difficult to fly, but its deadliness had been increased tenfold, though. A version made for carrier duty had also been introduced - the Sea Hurricane - which featured a tail hook and a reinforced fuselage. As the Super Hurricane, it was hard to handle, but the Sea Hurricane nonetheless filled an important gap, as the RN could now defended itself with some hope of success against Luftwaffe and KLK air attacks. The Super Hawker would prove a match for its arch-nemisis, the Me-109, but unfortunately for the British the Me-109 was about to be replaced with the even deadlier FW-190.
The British were not the only ones working frantically at boosting the defensive and offensive capabilities of their air force. Around the Empire engineers and designers were crunching numbers and drawing up new designs as men being haunted by unspeakable things. One of the designs soon to enter service was the Australian developed Boomerang long range fighter. Furthermore the blueprints aquired from the Italians were undergoing intense scrutiny, and while usually underpowered and undergunned, the planes proved to be in fact nothing less than brilliant. The Reggiane Re.2000 and the Macchi MC.200 would begin production within a year and would enter service as the Bristol Rex long range fighter and the Hawker Mordred interceptor. The MC.200 would undergo some redesigns to streamline the fuselage and to incorporate the important bubbled canopy. Both planes would be armed with a combination of 20mm cannons and 12.7mm machine guns, and equipped with respectively a Rolls Royce Merlin 61 engine and a ditto Griffon 65.
Over the Seas
Now I’m not pretty and I’m not cool
But I’m fat and I’m ugly and proud - so fuck you
Standing out is the new pretension
Sreamline the (sic)ness, half-assed aggression
You gotta see it to believe it, we all got conned
All the mediocre sacred cows we spawne
Put your trust in the mission
We will not repent - this is our religion
- Slipknot, I am Hated.
With a little evil inside
Feed on your nothing
You’ll never live up to me
I’ve stricken you
Feed on your nothing
And you’ll never live up to me
- Disturbed, Awaken.
Even though highly isolationistic, the events playing out around the world did not go unnoticed in the US. A lot of factors influenced US dession making in latter half of 1940. One of them was Germany’s apparent decission not to use the U-boote as they did in The Great War, to ravage merchant shipping in the Atlantic. Furthermore the highly polished image of the young Luftwaffe kampfliegere – as depicted in Leni Riefenstahl’s movie, Die Jungen Adler –, along with the heroic struggle – German propaganda ran rampant in the US after the fall of France - of the heavily outgunned and outclassed Kriegsmarine played well with the American public, who was always looking for new heroic types, and the American tendensy to root for the underdog.
Churchill, the disgraced formed First Lord, also played a vital role in fueling the anti-British sentiment in the USA, albeit rather involuntarily. After having sulked for a while, Churchill went on an extended tour of the US to drum up support for the British cause. This proved highly counterproductive, as the Americans flocked to hear the old Briton speak, they were all swayed by his powerfull rethoric and gained nearly boundless sympathy for the bulldog-like man who always fought for what he believed in and on principle stood up to bullies. Unfortunately the American public somehow got the idea that the bullies Churchill had stood up to were his own country men, men like Halifax and Chamberlain. The fact that the Halifax Government seemed to be getting very cozy with the Japanese didn’t help the British image in the US either.
The US Army Air Force did not exacly sleep during this time, but they took their time waking up, so to say. And when they finally did, the USAAF drew a series of wrong conslusions about air warfare. First of all, military analysts soon concluded that the British air losses, especially their very high casualty rate among bomber crews, happened because of a lack of sufficient defensive armament, armour and insufficient aircraft size – hard to image when one consider that RAF Bomber Command fielded the monstrous DeHavilland Manchester. The Americans simply put went for bigger – as always one is tempted to say. The effect of fighters on the fighting over Europe somehow seemed elusive to the Americans, but a few decent designs for long range fighters – the US was a nation bordering the endless Pacific and not quite endless Atlantic afterall– were picked for further study, and would eventually led to a series of powerfull twin boomed and engined long range fighters with 12,7mm machine gun and 20mm cannon armament.
Likewise did the Japanese Imperial Navy - Nihon Kaigun - new emphasis on air power, not spur the US Navy into a frenzy of activity. To many US Admirals, the carrier was still a curiosity, and everybody knew that battleships ruled the waves, so the respons to the creation of the Kido Butai was simply, like with the bombers, to built even bigger and heavier armed battleships – the Admirals did, however, remember to included expanded programmes for shipborne AAA. So where the Japanese, and to a lesser extent both the British and the Germans, began to turn away from the old idea of battelships being Queens of the sea, the US almost crowned them God-Empresses.
One thing the Americans and Japanese, along with the Italians and Argentinians – the helicopters from Argentinian Pescara Autowerke would be Sikorsky’s main commercial rival for most of the 20th century -, all could agree upon was the use of helicopters in its capacity as a search and rescue vehicle. Whereas the Japanese and Italians fumbled around quite a bit, the Americans had a working model from Sikorsky Aero Engineering Corporation within less than 4 months. Eventually the helicopter would enter service with the US Navy, and later the US Coast Guard as well, as the Si-41 America, and while being fairly troublesome to fly, the sturdy, little helicopter would prove to be quite popular with the US Navy’s air crews – especially those in danger of needing rescue at some time.
July 2nd, 2006, 08:52 AM
Tools of the Trade
Oh yes I've walked the path that
gives me confidence strong and pure
Now I realized that freedom rises
from comfort in the source
I built these walls around me
And I can't break them all away
And I focus on the strength I call
Insufferable and insane
So hold on to the end...
Its all about the blood, the sweat, the tears
A tribute to the strength built through the years
A tribute to soul...
- Machine Head, The Burning Red.
An empty plate for love & hate, so hungry like they never ate
And if you fight, noone fights back - 200 killings
Now I know that death is wearing black
A hand that holds me without strength - a hand that touches me without weight
The troops of love are flying out - very angry, very loud
- You can see it from the air - when you get hit,
You don't know where, and nothings seems fair
A hand that holds me without strength a hand that touches me without weight
And with no flag left to defend - a hand that pushes me
Anything as long as you touch me - Touch me - touch me - touch me
- D.A.D., A Hand Without Strength
In the latter part of the summer of 1940, Luftwaffe was once again armed to the teeth and ready to rumble. New deadly weapons – especially bigger cluster bombs and much heavier ordinary bombs, the 2000 and 2500 series of both armour penetrating PD’s and general purpose SC’s, as well as Hs-33 rocket powered torpedo bombs, had arrived at the three Luftflotten involved in the Battle of Britain and an influx of new planes, FW-190 fighters, the twin engined Ju-88 tactical bombers and four engined He-177 strategic bombers, had added to the already formidable hitting power of Luftwaffe’s western units. To enhance this power further, a group young and very eager Geschwader-leaders, just itching to have a go at The Lords, as the German Jagdfliegere called their British counterparts with equal amounts of respect and disdain – their national-socialistic indoctrination showing - had risen to command the last months due to Wever’s foresight.
The FW-190 was an all-round fighter, a tough reliable warhorse, compared to Messerschmidt’s temperamental thoroughbred racehorse-like Me-109 – as seen during the coming Battle of Dover, where many Me-109’s suffered serious mishaps while attempting to land – the gear was too narrow and flimsy. Even though hurried through the final phases of test and production, Focke-Wulf’s expert designer, Kurt Tank, once again proved to be perhaps the world’s finest aircraft designer. Ironically the FW-190 in many ways was considered as an evolutionary backstep as it was equipped with a radial engine, the BMW 801Dg, not the liquied cooled inline engined favoured by most fighter designers at this time. It was, however, both fast, manoeuvrable and deadly as the FW-190 came armed with four heavy machine guns and two 20mm cannons – later to be replace by two machine guns and four 20mm cannons or a mixture of 30mm and 20mm cannons and heavy machine guns.
The Ju-88 medium bomber – the so-called Schnellbomber – from Junkers Flugzeug und Motorenwerke – rumored to have been designed by two Americans - also began to make its presence felt, both among its jubilant crews and the less than jubilant British. The Schnellebomber’s versatility, good range and high air speed boosted both Wever and Milch’s political standing as both men had fought a vicious campaign to stop it from being converted to a heavy dive bomber. As it were, the Ju-88 was an incredible aircraft whoes performance was quite impressive. Had it been made into a dive bombing capable aircraft, there was no telling how the plane would have performed. Now, however, it would serve with distingtion in a multitude of roles; as an intruder, night fighter, reconnaissance plane, bomber as mentioned and in an anti-shipping capacity as well. The Ju-88 took to the skies for the first time in December, 1936, and began to enter service with Luftwaffe Lehr and Erprobungs-units in late 1939. For such a fragile lokking aircraft the bomb load was large - some 2 tonnes. The engines were two 1,200hp Jumo 211B's – ironically also radials. The crew – between 2 and 5 men depending on the model and mark - was placed close together at the front of the aircraft in a glass cockpit with a perfect all-round view. The Ju-88 had a range of some 1,700 km. As the war went on, some models were built with longer wings, so that the Ju-88 could carry the newest and heaviest of Luftwaffe’s munitions - the 2500 and 3000 series. Its’ a testimony to the Ju-88’s ruggedness and survivalbility, that throughout the war it served on all fronts and often flew from nothing more than rough dirtstrips. One draw back was its light defensive armament, however; the Ju-88 only had three machine guns for self defense, which would end up being upgrated continiously as the war went on. Production continued more or less at full speed up untill 1947 and a grand total of 22,000 were built all in all.
In July and August of 1940 the Ju-88’s of the Sonder Erprobungsgruppe began to operate as Pathfinders over most of the British Isles. Later the Pathfinders would be joined by Fernnachtjägere and Nachtjägere – Intruders and Night Fighters respectively – from the newly created Lehrgruppen that would later from the backbone of the FW-220 Gruppen - Groups. Again the Ju-88 proved its value as targets were found and struk with remarkable accuracy, as well as RAF’s bomber streams were interrupted time and time again with subsequent great losses ot the British.
The He-177 Geier – Vulture - was big, ugle and somewhat ungainly, but it had tripple the range of the old Do-19 – that is, between 6,000km and 7,000km depending on the exact model -, and packed double the punch – some 6 tonnes of mostly internally held bombs and munitions. It was armed for close defense with various combinations of 20mm cannon, heavy machine guns and light machine guns, and could sustain incredible amounts of damage. By the autumn of 1940, the He-177 had all but replaced the Dornier in most of Luftwaffe’s frontline Schwere Kampfgruppen. All in all more than 5,000 of theese planes would be built during the war. About 50 served on the Eastern Front as gunships armed with a side-mounted 75mm guns or the 30mm rotating gun for tank-busting. Powered by four Jumo 201G each with over 2,000hp the Geier was fairly fast and had an impressive endurance and pay load capacity.
During Operation Karin, the He-177’s of Luftwaffe’s Schwere Kampfgeschwader 12 were equipped with both Gustav Schwartz Propellerwerke’s rocket assisted anti-ship glide bomb, the Gustav XX – the weapon responsible for the sinking of HMS Warspite -, and Henschel’s new Hs-33 rocket powered anti-shipping torpedo bomb. Working closely with KLK’s heavy units, the bombers proved once and for all that air power was superior to sea power.
Luftwaffe and the KLK was stronger than ever, while RAF had just barely managed to keep its strength as pilots and air crews grew increasingly scare. Luftwaffe’s intelligence sources, now slightly more accurate after Schmid’s dismissal, estimated that the British were scraping the bottom of the manpower barrel. Even aircraft production was hampered by bombings, but were nonetheless rising and would most likely reach German levels within 6 months. One factor, howevere, was truly cribbling for the British; lack of high octane aviation fuel. The near closure of the British ports by Luftwaffe and KLK attacks prevented foreign, basically meaning American, fuel from reaching the British Isles in suffcient quantities. Both operational units and especially traning units suffered under the lack of aviation fuel.
Red Rocks of Dover
There’ll be bluebirds over
The white cliffs of Dover
Just you wait and see
I'll never forget the people I met
Braving those angry skies
I remember well as the shadows fell
The light of hope in their eyes
And though I'm far away
I still can hear them say
But when the dawn comes up
There’ll be bluebirds over
The white cliffs of Dover
Just you wait and see...
- Vera Lynn, The white cliffs of Dover.
Run and tell all of the angels
This could take all night
Think I need a devil to help me
Get things right
Hook me up a new revolution
Cos this one is a lie
We sat around laughing
And watch the last one die
I’m looking to the sky to save me
Looking for a sign of life
Looking for something help me burn out bright
- Foo Fighters, Learning to Fly.
After nearly three weeks of respite, the Luftwaffe along with its junior partner, the KLK, returned in force over the skies of Britain. The German strategy had been further refined and both the Royal Air Force and the Royal Navy had front row seats for yet another grand demonstration of German air power.
The second round of the Battle of Britain started with two simultaneous attacks on Britain. The KLK led an attack on Scotland from its bases in Norway along with Luftwaffe’s Luftflotte 5. Do-19’s, He-177 and He-111’s streamed in high and low to hit various Royal Navy anchorages as well as various port and dock facilities with Ju-88 Pathfinders and Intruders respectively showing and paving the way. British air defenses were blinded and some anti-aircaft artillery positions even wiped out by pin point attacks by low flying Ju-88’s of the Fernnachtsjäger. A few inconclusive air battles were fought as older marks of the Hurricane fighter rose to challenge the German bombers and their fighter escorts.
Further south Luftwaffe, and some minor elements from the KLK-units based at Ghent hit Portsmouth, Harwich. Liverpool and several other RN key facilities along with strikes om rail hubs and CH and CHL RADAR sites. The attacks on the British RADAR installations in the coastal areas were carried out by Ju-87’s and the everpresent Ju-88’s and paved the way for intrusions by bombers and longe range Me-109's and a few of the new FW-190. The new Focke-Wulf fighters were all gathered in Lehrgruppe Mölders, and would prove to be very effective.
Having successfully executed their mission, several of the Luftwaffe bomber streams came under attack by Hurricanes from RAF Fighter Command. A large air battle subsequently erupted just south of London where the aptly named London Big Wing hit the Luftwaffe formations. At first the Luftwaffe fighters seemed swamped by numbers, but the British Big Wing soon began to lose it coherency as dog fights erupted left and right, and as more German fighters was vectored in by Do-19 controller aircrafts. The furious air battle became a running battle as RAF fighters rose from every available base and the German bombers desperately, but in good order, ran for home. The battle ran all the way to the Cliffs of Dover, where it would reach its bloody climax as more Luftwaffe Jagdgruppen joined the fray. RAF Hawker Hurricanes and Super Hurricanes clashed with Me-109’s and the FW-190’s of Lehrgruppe Mölders in a growing battle that saw both sides commit more and more planes in a deperate attempt to break the other part. Most of the German bombers escaped, covered by the heavy fighter screen, but a handfuld of aircrafts were nonetheless lost in combat and even more as they crashed due to either plane or crew damage when they tried to land.
Over Dover, the British and German fighters tore into each other with a vengerance and both sides suffered appaling loses. Superior German command and control, however, in the end won the day – as usual one is tempted to say. But it was avery close call indeed. The appearance of the FW-190 helped make this a most bloody day for the British Royal Air Force as the new plane were deemed accountable for nearly a full third of the British loses. At the end of the day, Luftwaffe had lost some 120 planes - the British claimed to have downed over 200 for the loss of only 50 of their own fighters, though. In reality, only 80 Luftwaffe planes, including aforementioned bombers, were downed by enemy fire. The last 40 planes were simply lost due to accidents as especially the Me-109 seemed to suffer from a multitude of mishaps ranging from botched landings – the undercarriage was notoriously unreliable – to problems with the drop tanks or midair collisions. The fact that a third of their planes had been lost due to accidents were not lost on OKL. The pilot training programme was thus adjusted slightly to emphasis aerial combat and serious attention devouted to solving the drop tank and landing gear problems. The Me-109, however, would always suffered from way too many mishaps due to its weak and narrow undercarriage, but the new model of drop tanks would be more reliable and saffer to eject.
RAF Fighter Command had lost at least 160 aircrafts, not only 50 as claimed. A significant percentage of these losses were accidents as the Super Hurricane were prone to difficulties and the fact that RAF’s pilots were either worn down – the short recess in the fighting had helped, though - or simply inexperienced. Nonetheless 130 of the lost aircrafts were down to combat losses, which hammered home the point that Luftwaffe doctrine, training and aircrafts were superior. The loses were unbearable for especially the British, who lacked Luftwaffes centralized production apparatus, oits impressive leadershop and massive training organization. The insecurity and instability in the Pacific and South East Asia had made the respective governments of Australian and New Zealand unwilling to sent reinforments in any great numbers to Britain. Canada as well seem strangely reluctant to provide help – the anti-British sentiment in the US apparently rubbing off. US Ambassador to the Court of St.James, Joseph Kennedy, gleefully sent a series of negative reports home to State, claming that with casualties rising as they did, the airwar would be over in weeks.
Ambassador Kennedy’s reports would play a major part in the American Presidential Election of 1940 as President Roosevelt’s standing as a fairly pro-British and interventionistic President began to hurt him severely in the polls. The fact that FDR had chosen to run for his third term with Wallace as his VP didn’t help either as the mood in the general public was very anti-Soviet and thus viewed everything slightly Red with deep mistrust and dislike. The Roosevelt-Wallace duo was opposed by the Republican Taft-McNary ticket.
At OKL, General Martini, newly appointed head of the reorganized in-house intelligence service, Nachrichtendiest die Luftwaffe, did wonder a great deal about the British ability to control an air battle – their steady hand during the Dover air battle had duely impressed Luftwaffe’s higher echelons. RAF Fighter Commands seemingly unerring way of knowing more or less exactly where their own planes were, puzzled Martini. To the best of his knowledge, RAF did not posess RADAR-equipped command and controll planes, so the answer had to lie elsewhere. Martini hoped to find some way of disrupting the British 3C-ability, before Luftwaffe was forced into yet another large scale air battle – the losses being a bit over the top for Luftwaffe as well, even though a good part of said losses were due to mishaps and the Battle of Dover was claimed as a major German victory… by Goebbles and his Propaganda Ministry. After some indept analysis and long hours in Signals, Martini came to the conclusion that the RAF fighters must be equipped with some sort of transmitter – an early IFF-set so to say - and, more improtantly, that the battles were directed by local bases, so-called Sector Airfields, not a central unified command as such. Two such Sector Airfield were quickly identified by their electronic emissions and targeted for special attention. Biggin Hill, Kenley and later Tangmere would face total annihilation.
In OKW it is beginning to dawn on the generals that they can not hope to invade the British isles. Well, invade yes, but not conquer. Especially, or so Keitel and some of his croonies claimed, since Martin Bormann at The Four Year Plan Office and Hjalmar Schact as Minister of Economics and General Plenipotentiary for the War refused to give up the many river barges needed for such an invasion. Bormann and Schact were adamant, however, and surprisingly backed by Hitler himself, who would not see the German economy suffer more than absolutely necessary. So instead of a full fledged invasion – Operation Seelöwe -, and thank God for small favours as Raeder was noted for saying, Operation Orfeus was put forth. Airborn units, be it air dropped, landed and heliborn from the 7th Paratroop Division and the 22nd Air Landing Division, along with General Dietle’s veteran mountain troops from the Norwegian campaign were to assault the Isle of Wight, and then kept in supply by air. Wever, having a dedicated tranport fleet at full strength once more, was pretty certain this could be done, even if there against all odds should occure heavy fighting. Once the island was secured, an offer of peace would be presented to the British. Operation Orfeus were to be launched in September, and only after RAF was worn even further down and the Royal Navy destroyed as a determining factor. To do this a new series of air raids were orchestrated by Luftwaffe and the KLK, and an audacious Kriegsmarine plan, Operation Karin – long time in the works – finally approved.
In the Baltics, Kapitän zur See – Captain – Densch viewed his orders with disbelief, but nontheless complied. The LKM Hermann Göring terminated its barely started sea traisl and stemaed for Kiel where Konteradmiral Bachmann would hoist his flag and thus take command of Schlachtgruppe Bachmann
At Wilhelmshafen and Kiel the surface elements of the Kriegsmarine began to gather in increasing numbers, while the U-boote returned home from their stations to refit for yet another cruise to the North Sea and Norwegian Waters.
July 10th, 2006, 06:27 AM
One word, a voice unheard
You can change the world
With everything I know you're made of
One word, a voice unheard
You can change the world
If everyone would stop and listen
The art of innocence make so much sense
But placed in the wrong hands, well then it's wasted
Filtered through the eyes of a pure mind
A one-of-a-kind paradise for you and I
- P.O.D., Change the World.
With eyes so dilated,
I’ve became your pupil
You’ve taught me everything
Without a poison apple
The water is so yellow, I’m a healthy student
Indebted and so grateful -
Vacuum out the fluids
- Nirvana, Drain You
While the Germans seemed to go on from one victory to another, the mighty Red Army had fought a series of inconclusive border skirmishes with the Empire of Japan in Outer Mongolia and along their common eastern border and were now mirred in a bloody occupation of Finland, a small country that almost singlehandedly fended off the Red Army.
Since the Imperial Japanese Kwantung Army had moved in and taken control of Manchuria in 1931, an undeclared low level war had raged between the Empire of Japan and the USSR. Along a 4,000km line drawn at a whim in a inhospitable wasteland, the two countries and their respective armed forces viewed each other with a mixture of greed, disdain and eagerness. Numerous border skirmishes and disputes characterized the next several years as both sides reinforced their respective forces and duelled for supremacy and postions. In 1936, the USSR signed a mutual assistance treaty with Outer Mongolia – basically taking control of the area -, and in early ’37, Soviet troops began to deploy in Outer Mongolia in numbers.
After the Lake Khasan incident in 1938, where over 2,000 men – both Soviet and Japanese soldiers - were killed, Stalin made it clear during a speech at the annual Party Congress in the spring of 1939, that any acts of aggression, be they small, clandestine or otherwise, against the Rodina – the Motherland - would face the full fury of the Soviet Union’s armed might. The Japanese Government and High Command, engaged in a furious naval build-up, and under the influence of its naval officers, seemed adamant not to provoke the Soviet Bear, at this stage at least, and made sure no such acts of aggression were forthcoming… for now. Nonetheless minor clashed occurred weekly, and the paced picked up after the Soviet occupation Finland and the three Baltic States and after the annexation of Eastern Poland.
While the tensions in Siberia and Outer Mongolia were fairly easily handled – a handful of younger Red Army officers had risen to command out there, shielded by the distance from the Purges, and seemed to be in charge of the situation - the occupation of Finland, and to a lesser extent that of Eastern Poland and the Baltic States were troubling the Red Army. This was a type of conflict the Red Army was not used to. Usually NKVD units took care of internal security, while the Red Army now and again provided some support, but this was war and therefore Army business! However, drawn out guerilla warfare in a hostile climate, terrain and environment such as the Finnish were draining the resources and the spirit of the Red Army and doing so fast. The words Bielaja Smertj - the White Death – alone spread fear among the masses of conscripted infantry heading for Finland on a regular basis. The Marshals and Generals in the STAVKA – the supreme command of the Soviet Armed Forces – even considered asking the NKVD for help, but pride and a fear of failure prohibited them from doing so. In Stalin’s USSR, the price for failure was death- if one were lucky - in a cold dark basement in the Lubjanka Prison at the Felix Dzerinskij Square.
Furthermore, the Red Army had suffered immensely at the hands of the NKVD, so it seemed unnatural – to say the very least - to ask for any help from that quarter. During the Purges, a full third of all officers were arrested and subsequently executed or sent to the Gulag-camps in Northern Siberia. Hardest hit were the higher echelons, as 3 out of 5 Marshals and 14 out of 16 army commanders were executed.
The NKVD itself were not immune to the Purges, and had several of its members purged on Staln’s orders. Besides a series of low ranking members, Yagoda and Yeszhov – the successive heads of the NKVD - had both been executed. That alone made the ever cautious Beria, the present head of the NKVD, very reluctant to get involved in the mess in Finland. Even in the dreaded and feared NKVD one did not want to appeare as a failure.
The Finnish War cost the Red Army over 300,000 casualties, which was what it was – men could easily be replaced, this was the USSR afterall -, but furthermore the Red Army had lost some 700 planes and nearly 2,000 tanks. Considering the fact that Finland had next to no tanks, or armoured vehicles of any sort, and no Air Force to speak of, this was disturbing, highly disturbing, but nobody dared tell Stalin that his vaunted Red Army was no good! Indeed some senior officers went as far as convincing themselves that all was well. Ignorance was not only bliss, but also safety in the USSR!
Generally speaking the Soviet Supreme Command didn’t know what to do. Puny Finland's small army of some 200,000 men had nearly beaten the Red Army and thus exposed the its many short-comings. Lessons were naturally learned, but still to Red Army seemed like a leaderless and unskilled mob!The Marshals and Generals of the Red Army – well, most of them - already knew their men were poorly trained, equipped and led, but the Red Army and STAVKA had relied on quantity rather than quality ever since Tjukachevskij and the start of the Purges. And if one showed an unhealthy interest in pre-Communist history, one would know that this had always been the case in Russia, and the Soviet Union as well. But now, quantity no longer seemed adequat!
Not only did it seem like the age old Russian/Soviet startegy of swamping any given enemy in impossible numbers was not all that effcicient any more, it also was more than obvious that it was very hard to supply, maintnain and control such huge forces in the field. Especially considering, that the Red Army was highly mechanized, it was rather ironic that the Red Army lacked radios, trucks and the logistsical muscles to fight a modern war.
Thus jubilation and exuberance were the dominant moods in Berlin the capital of the Third Reich, whereas a perpetual state of fear and paranoia ruled the Soviet Union's capital of Moskva - Moscow.
This city is a prostitute
She has red spots on her forehead
Her teeth are made of gold
She's fat and yet so lovely
Her mouth falls to my valley
when I pay her for it
She takes off her clothes but only for money
The city that keeps me in suspense
One, two, three!
Pioneers are here and there,
singing songs to Lenin.
She is old and nevertheless beautiful
I can't resist her
I can't resist
She powders her old skin
and has gotten her breasts rebuilt
She makes me horny I suffer torment
She dances for me I have to pay
I have to pay
She sleeps with me but only for money
It's still the most beautiful city in the world
- Rammstein, Moskau (translated from German).
Apathy has rained on me
Now I’m feeling like a soggy dream
So close to drowning but
I don’t mind
I’ve lived in this mental cave
Throw emotions in the grave
Hell, who needs them anyway
- Green Day, Burnout.
Moskva, the ancient seat of Russian government, where Tsars, one more bloodthirsty than the other, had ruled millions of Russians for centuries were now the lair of the worst dictator humankind have ever seen. The dictator, a man who made the Tzars, even the worst ones, seem like innocent choirboys, Josef Vissarionovitch Djugasjvili - know under his nome-de-guerre as Stalin, the Man of Iron -, was feeling uneasy, and that usually meant someone had to pay with their lifes. Stalin was growing ever more frightfull of the seemingly unstoppable German warmachine and of its leader, the German Führer, Adolf Hitler, not to mention suspicious of the greedy Japanese.
Stalin had all by himself, rightfully, drawn the conslusion that the Red Army were far from able to fight a modern war. Its equippement was below par, so was its training and, naturally, its officer corps. It also lacked the ability to support itself during combat over longer periods – the forces fighting in Finland had experienced major supplys failures as they on occasion - on occasion menaing all too often - ran out of not only ammunition, but also – which was quite impossble to fathom in the USSR of all places – out of fuel.The Far Eastern Army units seem to do quite well, though, but then again they only had to deal with the Japanese and no major battles had been fought. Furthermore it confirmed Stalin’s view that it was vitally important to avoid a war with the Third Reich for as long as possible. There would be no immediate war, though, as Germany would not invade the USSR, while its armed forces were still embroiled in a war with Britain. But to the amazement of Stalin, the Party Leadership as well as that of the Red Army, as it were, time seemed to be running out for the British and running out very fast indeed.
To make sure, the red Army would be ready for its next trials, more pressure was put on whatever Finnish resistance was still active. Which was quite a lot as large parts of the Finnish countryside was disputed to put it rather dipomatically. The terrain itself, and the locals severe anti-Soviet attitude, made it something of a Sysiphos task to control Finland from a military standpoint. Having recognised that, Stalin ordered more men, this time from boht the Red Army and the NKVD into Finland. At the same time all mean were taken to bring the Finns to heal, which is a vary sugarcoated way of putting it. Basically, the Soviets went about murdeing and killing more or less anybody of military aid and then some. The Soviet actions in Finland would prove to be somethinh of an omen of things to come – the Eastern Ear between Germany and the USSR would see the very same type of almost genocidal tactics used, this time mostly by the invading Germans, and the same quite murderous guerilla tactics employed by the Soviets. Nonethelees, and however distatstefull it may appear nowadays, the Soviet tactics worked – Finnish resistance subsided to an acceptable level.
Not surprisingly several foreign observers made quite a fuss about the Soviet’s hard-handed tactics. Churchill amongst others made his famous Peace-speech, as it is ironically known! The theme was of course modelled on Tacitus’ even more famous quote; Ubi solitudinem faciunt, pacem appellant - They made a desert and called it peace. With his usualy eloquence Churchill hammered home the fact that Communism now and forever had lost its innocence, and that the spirit of Soveit Russia and Communism itself could longer be called benign, nor worthy of aspiration or admiration. The speech and its philosophical connections would later, or so the story goes, inspire no other than Albert Camus to write L’etranger du Monde – The Estranged. Unfortunately, few people in Britain really cared much for Churchill at this point. His views did win supporters in the USA, though.
The Finnish War ironically also gave Hitler amble food for thought. The Finnsih debacle convinced Hitler, and his inner circle, that the Wehrmacht would easily annihilate the Red Army, and thus planning for Operation Friedrich der Grosse began in earnest. Furthermore, with Operation Orfeus in the workings, Hitler and his croonies at the OKW knew that the days of Britian were numbered. Operation Friedrich der Grosse would be the codename for the worlds largest military operation. The plan called for an invasion of the USSR in mid-May, 1941, which would give the Wehrmacht sufficient time to destroy the Red Army and take control of the western part of the USSR before winter put a stop to military operations on the Eastern Front, as operations in the USSR would be known.
The Chained Bear and the Red Falcons
An angelface smiles to me
Under a headline of tragedy
That smile used to give me warmth
Farewell - no words to say
beside the cross on your grave
and those forever burning candles
to remind us of the shortness of our time
Tears laid for them
Tears of love, tears of fear
Bury my dreams, dig up my sorrows
Oh, Lord why
the angels fall first
- Nightwish, The Angels fall First.
Oh yes I've walked the path that
gives me confidence strong and pure
Now I realized that freedom rises
from comfort in the source
I built these walls around me
And I can't break them all away
And I focus on the strength I call
Insufferable and insane
So hold on to the end...
Its all about the blood, the sweat, the tears
A tribute to the strength built through the years
A tribute to soul...
- Machine Head, The Burning Red.
As the Germans smelled blood, as did Stalin, albeit in a slightly different way. He once more purged the officer corps, and ordered a rapidly build-up of the Red Army’s strenght and rapid expansion of its logistical capacity and support functions – something made possible only by a successive series of harshly implemented Five Year Plans that had made the USSR’s industry into a veritabel powerhous of an unimaginable magnitude.
Since 1928, the USSR had seen rises raw material extraction between a 100 and 200% and a whopping 300% increase in power output, not to mention the many kilometers of newly laid down rails and new industrial centers build in unpronouncable places. The industrialization process had cost the Soviet people no end of pain, but Stalin as usual ignored any compliants, claiming that if the industrialization did not take place, the beloved USSR would be at the mercy of its enemies, surrounded by them as it were. Ironically, history would prove the Man of Steel correct. By 1941, when the Eastern War erupted in full fury, the Red Army had grown to a mind-numbing size of 300 divisions. Most of the divisons both in 1940 and a year later were infantry divisions, or Rifle Divisions as the Soviets called them. As in every other country at the time, these Rifle Divisions were supported by horse-drawn artillery – and in the case of the Red Army a lot of it - and cavalry divisions. Most were faily badly equipped, trained and led, though.
The Red Army were still lacking trucks and radios as well as supplies and reserves. The urgency of the military build-up had forced the Marshals and Generals of the Red Army to focus on creating new combat formations -, which meant that insufficient resources were available to creat a logistical apparatus in support of said front line units. The importance of an abundance of radios for some reason didn’t quite sink in, but rear area supply dumps with fuel and ammunition did begin to spring up in the in early 1941. Unfortunately for the Red Army just behind the Rifle, Cavalry and Tank divisons as they were forming up along the borders with Romania and Germany.
The Red Army did have an ace or two up their sleave, so to say. Not all the competent officers had been purged. With the rising tension in the Far East as well as in Europe, a few good officers had been given the possibily to gain prominence (and importantly, without getting executed in the process). One of them, Ivan Stepanovitj Konev, would go on to become the Rodina’s foremost field commander of all times. Another was Konstantin Konstantinovitj Rokossovskij, who was not only known as a brilliant leader of men, but as the inventor of mechanized warfare – not quite true, but at the time it was hard, not to say highly dangerous, to argue with Stalin’s propaganda machine. Ironically both men nearly got purged themselves, but their commands in faraway Siberia and Outer Mongolia, as well as their undeniable successes – well, they prevented the Japanese Kwantung Army and their Manchurian puppets from becoming too frisky - spared them from joining men like Zhukov and Tjukachevskij before the NKVD’s hardworking firing squads. Both Rokossovskij and Konev’s fate would be closely intertwined with one of the USSR’s few other aces, its powerful tanks.
In 1940, two new tanks were beginning to enter service, albeit somewhat slowly. One was the heavy and tough 50 tonnes, diesel powered KV-1. The KV-1 was a typical standard tank-design for the time, just a lot heavier than other tanks and better armed than most with its powerful 76,2mm high-velocity main gun. The other tank was the fast and reliable T-34. The T-34 was by no means a marvel of engineering, but it did introduce a new feature; sloped armour. Sloped armour was ideal for deflecting shells and thus added protection out of proportion with the armours actuall thickness. The T-34 also had a diesel engine and the powerful 76,2mm gun.
The focus that was placed squarely on the Red Army and especially increasing the production of tanks and aircrafts influenced the other branch of the Armed Forces – the Red Navy - immensely. Even though its commander in chief, Admiral Nikolai Kutznetzov, who had been appointed Commissar of the Navy by Stalin in the spring of 1939, was a powerful patron and quite the visionary regarding naval warfare, ship building was nearly halted in early 1940, as Stalin decreed that the USSR should apply its industrial might, revolutionary fevor and resources to produce yet more tanks and aircrafts. Some minor vessels got built, though, along with a contineous stream of mostly coastal submarines. The Red Navy was without question the weakest branch of the Soviet Armed forces, but did as noted above have a rather powerful submarine branch, as well as a handful of fairly powerful surface vessels. Said submarine fleet promted the German Kriegsmarine to develop the Fl-41 Grief – Griffin – helicopter. The Fl-41 was the world’s first dedicated ASW, or Unterseeboot Jaeger in German, helicopter and would prove higly succesful in the Eastern War as well as in the British Continuation War. Both the surface and submarine branches of the Soviet Red Navy would face nearly total destruction at the hands of the German Kriegsmarine and Luftwaffe. As with the Red Army, the Red Navy’s officers corps had been badly damaged by ther Purges, but Admiral Kutznetzov did a lot to better things, but to little avail as will be seen.
The Voenno-Vozduznie Sily - Red Army’s Air Force –, or VVS for short, was not an independent service as in Germany or Britain, but was controlled by the Red Army. It should be noted that the Red Navy had air units of its own, but the Soviet Naval Aviators mostly flew outdated bomber and torpedo aircrafts that would suffer dearly when faced by the Kriegsmarine’s Luftstreitkräfte Kommando - KLK -, and/or Luftwaffe. On paper, the Red Army’s Air Force was quite impressive, however. By 1936, Soviet factories were producing about 3,500 aircraft a year. Most of these were bombers like Tupolev’s TB-3 and the Tupolev Skorostnoy Bombardirovschik - high speed bomber – series of SB’s. Doctrine as well as dire need dictated that priority be placed on bomber production, something the VVS and Red Army in general would regret dearly in the years to come. In the early summer of 1941, when Operation Freidrich der Grosse was launched, the VVS deployed some 18,000 planes – out of which nearly 10,000 were placed in Frontal Aviation units - of all sorts in its invetory and had around 20,000 pilots, while ground crews and the like numbered close to 200,000 people.
The Red Army Air Force’s favoured simple designs, that could be massproduced and flown by more or less uneducated and trained personel. The most numerous aircrafts by 1941 were Polikarpov R-5 reconnaissance palnes, MBR-2 for naval reconnaissance, the Polikarpov series of fighters – of which the I-16 featured prominently -, the Tupolev SB-2 and Ilyushin DB-3 for ground support and tactical bombing and the heavy ANT-37/DB-2 – a converted ANT-25 - long range bomber. DB stands for Dalnij Bombardirovschik meaning Long Range Bomber.
As the war progressed the VVS - Red Army’s Air Force - suffered, just as RAF did during the Battle of Britain, under a lack of trained pilots and air crews, but in part made up for said lack by producing some rather simple, but surprisingly good planes. Planes such as the MiG-3 fighter by Mikoyan & Gurevitj, the LaGG-3 fighter by Lavotjkin or the truly deadly TiY-2 by the Tupolev & Yakolev design bureau would at times make the Luftwaffe earn its keep the hard way. The TiY-2 was actually an impressive machine, that went on to serve with Red China units until the fall of Mao’s last stronghole in 1953 as well as the Ukrainian National Air Force. Powered by a super-charged Mikulin engine with some 2,200hp and armed with an increasingly powerful array of machine guns and cannon as well as rockets in its later variants, the TiY-3, with the somehow fitting nickname of Ubiytsja - Killer -, was nonetheless an agile and tough fighter suited for low to mid-level dogfighting. It had a sleek fuselage, a bubbled canopy and was made entirley out of lightweight metal, but had what can only be described as an armoured box around the pilot. The TiY-3 made its way into the pages of history as the USSR’s perhaps finest plane - some historians still claim the honour belongs with the Su-6, though – and first thouroughbred interceptor. Furthermore a series of fairly good and most of all rugged ground attack aircraft and tactical bombers were built as well – Petlyakov’s Pe-2 and another plane designed by Andrei Nikolaevich Tupolev, the Tu-2 and the devastingly efficient and deadly twin engined Su-6 Akula – Shark - with its four recoilless 45mm cannon by Tupolev’s protegé, the enginius Pavel Osipovich Sukoi. Dr.Sukoi would later go on to construct Russia’s first entirely domestic jet-fighter, the Su-12, and its first super-sonic aircraft, the Su-22 – made with the world first ejectable cockpit.
July 14th, 2006, 04:45 PM
Dead Angels of Albion
We’re disposable teens
We’re disposable teens
We’re disposable teens
We’re disposable teens
We’re disposable teens
We’re disposable teens
You said you wanted evolution
The ape was a great big hit
You say you want a revolution, man
I say that you’re full of shit
The more that you fear us
The bigger we get
The more that you fear us
The bigger we get
And don’t be surprised, don’t be surprised
Don’t be surprised when we destroy all of it
- Marilyn Manson, Disposable Teens.
Their faces gaunt their eyes were blurred and shirts all soaked with sweat
They're riding hard to catch that head but they ain't caught them yet
'Cause they've got to ride forever on that range up in the sky
On horses snorting as they ride and hear their awful cry
Yippie-aye-aaa, yippie-aye-ooh, ghost riders in the sky
As the riders loped on by him he heard one call his name
If you want to save your soul from hell a-riding on our range
Then cowboy change your ways today or with us you will ride
A-trying to catch the devil's herd across these endless skies
Yippie-aye-aaa, yippie-aye-ooh, ghost riders in the sky
- Johnny Cash, Ghost Riders in the Sky.
In August, 1940, the offensive air war over Germany had basically failed. A combination of factors played a key role in RAF Bomber Command’s defeat. First, the lack of long range escorts hurt the bombers immensely as they were fairly easy targets for Luftwaffes newly created Luftflotte 9 with its growing numbers of FW-190’s – organized in two understrength, as of now, Jagdgeschwadere under respectively Günther Lützow and Walter Oesau, famous for his downing of British General Edmund Ironside - and its even more deadly nightfighter arm – Nachtjäger Geschwader 55 – under Johannes Steinhof and its other, equally important element – the intruders – Fernnachtjäger Geschwader 111- under Walter Nowotny. The FW-222 Raubvogel had not entered service yet, but ordinary fighters could with good guidance from Do-19 C&C aircrafts and ground control be directed unto the bomber streams and do a lot of damage. A good number of Ju-88’s had been converted into both Night Fighters and Intruders. Both variants had RADAR – made possible by a combination of miniturization and a small enlargements of the Ju-88’s in form of a bulge on the otherwise slender fuselage - and its usual glass nose replaced by what was basically a gun platform with two 20mm cannon and two heavy machine guns – the weapons mix would rapidly be replaced by an all cannon armament. The Intruder version of the Ju-88, besides its heavy armament, carried a small bombload of cluster bombs in its somewhat shrunken internal bomb bay, but lacked the sophisticated communication and navigation gear the Night Fighter was came equipped with.
As part of his reorganization of the Luftwaffe, Wever promoted Ernst Udet to General der Jagdflieger - General of the Fighter Arm –, or GdJ for short, with Hitler’s blessing. Udet was an old friend and comrade in arms of dear deceased Hermann, and thus had a special place in der Führer’s heart as well. In many ways Udet hated his job as a senior officer, bound by his desk, drowned in paper and entagled in politics, and therefore spent as much time as possible out in the field among his Jagdfliere. As General of the Fighter Arm he now had plenty of opportunity to visit various Jagdgeschwaders and other outfits such as the two new Nachtjäger and Fernnachtjäger Geschwaders. Luftflotte 9, or Luftflotte Reich in daily Luftwaffe terminology, was Udet’s baby. While not the sharpest knife in the cubboard when it came down to modern technology and its use, Udet nonetheless had a knack for picking good officers, inspiring his subordinates and making the most of his allocated reources, not to mention an innate charm and an unpretentious mannerism that sat him apart from many of other high ranking Nazi Gold Pheasants. Luftflotte 9 would haunt and rawage RAF Bomber Command and ultimately prove its downfall, at least in round one.
After the advice of the rather obscure British air war theorists, Arthur Harris, the British had begun to form their bombes up in huge swarms. While on paper a sound theory; massive dadamage done, safety in numbers and the possibility of overwhelming the German air defences, this tactic proved devastatingly wrong. The massed and massive stream of bombers only gave Udet’s boys, be they ordinary fighters pilots or elité Jäger pilots-, a very target rich environmnet, to paraphrase Udet himself. Furthermore, the Intruders had a field day when the huge stream began to form up in Britain before its mission. With so many bombers participating, it took a lot of time to get every aircraft airborne and in formation, and then it took even more time to meet up with the other elements and form the actual bomber stream. Even the otherwise high flying super heavy De Havilland Manchester was vulnerable when circling an airfield with all its navigation lights on – as the bombers did in this phase for safety reasons. The Ju-88 Intruders wrecked havoc on the British airfields with both their heavy weapons and the cluster munition used so liberally by Luftwaffe. All this meant, that the bombers had not been able to turn the tables on the Germans, and with much of RAF Fighter Command basically blown out of existence or simply just fighting to stay alive and airborne, and a distressingly large part of the Royal Navy’s Home Fleet damaged or actually sunk, along with the growing concentration of German warships of all sorts in various Kriegsmarine bases within easy striking range of the British Isles, the beleaguered British Primeminister, Lord Halifax, began to wonder whether peace might not be a better idea than stubborn resistance.
As a result of the PM’s considerations, an off-the-record enlarged Cabinet meeting took place in late August, 1940. Among those present were Eden, Bevin and Atlee. In spite of the closed and highly secretive nature of this meeting, a series of Halifax quotes has leaked over the years. One of the more memorable are his opening lines: “Peace, most honoured Gentlemen, is essential for this Realm, if we the British are to maintain our rightful place as the foremost of nations and the Empire are to thrive and prosper. The survival of our beloved Realm must take precendence over any and all objections – be they based on honour or lust for victory and personal glory. Our Empire can not be allowed to fade away into the night, like an old, tired Lion ousted from his Pride by a young usurper!” It is usually belived that only Eden and the two Labour MP’s, stout Bevin and clever Atlee, open resistance to the idea of peace with Hitler and his Riech prevented Halifax from issueing a public statement callign for an armistice.
The gathering German warships and the rather awesome power they represented had the First Sea Lord, Admiral Sir Dudley Pound, deeply worried. Due to heavy German air attacks on naval anchorages, ship yards and other facilities, he had been forced to disperse most of his naval assets, including wihtdrawing most of Home Fleet from Scapa Flow to more easternly anchorages away from Luftwaffe and the KLK. If the German ships set sail and went to sea, he was unsure whether his ships could reach them before they got to where they wanted to be, and where ever that might be, it was bound to be detrimal to British interests. With a heavy heart, the First Sea lord ordered Home Fleet west again and hoped for the best. At least the Fleet Air Arm – FAA – had some decent figthers now and RAF Fighter Command had promised to reinforce its northen squadrones. Deep down, Pound feared that Fighter Command actually were glad to shift some units north, out of the hell Southern England had become. At least it seemed, according to Intelligence and its Norwegian contacts, like the German 5th Air Fleet and the KLK units in Norway had been seriously hurt during their many raids on Scotland. It was reported that many Luftwaffe and KLK bases were almost empty and that numerous damaged planes were visible in many places. Pound began to ponder if some kind of strike on the Kriegsmarine ships gathering around that accurse German carrier – Herman Göring, was it? - in Kiel was not in order, now that the German air forces seemed temporarely weakened. Seize the day and all that! Especially since KM Bismarck had now arrived from the Baltic as part of Schlachtgruppe Bachmann. Pound had to admit that he was quite surprised to see the Bismarck ready for action so soon. Come to think of it, so was the Intelligence chaps at the Admiralty. Oh, well, Pound thought, as long as the damned Luftwaffe and those pesky naval fliers was out the way…
Turn around and pick up the pieces
I, like a rock, sink
Sinking til I hit the bottom
The water is much deeper than I thought
Nothing to swim with
Kicking but I keep sinking
A lesson that no one could have ever taught
Cause I can almost breathe the air
Right beyond my fingertips
I’ll turn around and pick up the pieces
One more push and I’ll be there
Back where I belong
- Hoobastank, Pieces.
Comin’ down the world turned over
And angels fall without you there
And I go on as you get colder
Or are you someone’s prayer
You know the lies they always told you
And the love you never knew
What’s the things they never showed you
That swallowed the light from the sun
Inside your room
- Goo Goo Dolls, Black Balloon.
Even if RAF Bomber Command’s air offensive against Germany had basically failed, the bombers kept streaming into Germany at a high cost to both sides alike. Luftwaffe’s Luftflotte Reich (9) shot down numerous bombers each night, but the heavy Manchesters and Stirlings nonetheless got through in some numbers and caused immense damage on German cities, or their total destruction as seen in the case of Hamburg, Bremen and later Köln – a city that would truly suffer in the War as it later got annihilated in nuclear fire.
After yet another large bomber raid on a German city, Köln, Hitler once more pressed for a direct respons in form of attacks on British cities. Wever once again voiced his firm opposition, but ended up giving in to Hitler – on the advice of Milch and several of his closes advisors. Wever, and Milch, however, was not about to stoop to British Tactics, so a series of militarily and industrialy significant cities were picked; Liverpool, Belfast and Hull. Subsequently Portsmouth and Southhampton along with the Sector Airfields, including Tangmere, in Southern Britain would get hit round the clock in preparation of Operation Orfeus. Having received their orders, the Luftflotten in France concentrated their heavier units, the Schwere Kampfgeschwaders etc etc, and, after giving warming in form of air dropped leaflets, bombed the three cities one by one into smoking ruins over a periode of six days with a stand down on the seventh day – the biblical reference was not lost on the British. The large amounts of coal stored in warehouses in Hull – the primary port of entry and exit for coal - caused firestorms that quite literally burned the city to the ground, while Liverpool and Belfast was made nearly inhabitable, thus both the shipbuilding capacity and as well as port capacity in general was hurt dramatically and imports declined measureably. During the 6 days of consistant air attacks, RAF Fighter Command was pratically nowhere to be seen as the commanders of Britains air defence desperatly tried to conserve their strength, being nearly out of aviation fuel and pilots as they were and an invasion looming at the horizon.
In the German propaganda ministry, Dr.Goebbels made the most of the chivalrous Luftwaffe’s attempt to minimize civilian casualties by declaring their attacks to the British inhabitants. Not only did this serve to give the Germans a morale upper hand, so to say, and badly damage British morale, it also played well with the public opinion in the USA, who also noted that the German U-boote did not strike at unarmed merchant vessels in this war… maybe the leadership in Berlin were not the animals, the British – who themselves sank everything they could get into reach of AND destroyed cities without warning – claimed?! As said, Goebbels and his lackeys in the Propaganda Ministry had a field day…
Furthermore the newly identified Sector Airfields were being pommeled into the ground by Ju-88 Schnellbombers and everything else the Germans could reach them with from elderly Ju-87’s to Hs-129’s and even fighters – the FW-190 proved to be quite the ground assault aircraft, even though its engines had a sligt tendency to overheat at certain altitudes. Biggin Hill, Kenley and Tangmere for al purpose cease to exist as munitions of all sorts reigning from the SD-6-G to the 2 tonnes Hermann SC2000 free fall bomb rain down on the airfields. Luftwaffe also introduced a new system designed to hit a smallish target with maximum power; the Staffel- or Gruppenkeil - Arrowhead-formation - where three bombers fly in V-formation followed in quick succession by another V –formation of three bombers and so on. With near complete control of the sky over Southern Britain such tactics were devastingtly effective and destructive.
After the 6 Days Raid, as the bombing campaing against Liverpool, Hull and Belfast was know, Portsmouth, Southhampton, the Isle of Wight and the coastline of Kent and Sussex was the focus of Luftwaffe and KLK attention and was attacked repeatedly. Airfields and RADAR sites and the mentioned Sector Airfields was hit again and again in preparation for Operation Orfeus. British casualties were mounting dangerously as the loss of 3C is hurting RAF Fighter Command beyond belief. A new jammer device, introduced by Air General Martini, blocked the British IFF-system and the situation in Southern England turned from bad to worse. In August, RAF Fighter Command for all purpose stopped being a danger and at the end of the month nearly didn’t exist at all, much to the joy of the Luftwaffe leadership as Luftwaffe's own losses mounted due to the intense pace of air operations…
As in France, the 500kg SD-4-H1 cluster bomb, and its bigger brother the SD-6-G, had a tremendous effect on British airfields, even the grass ones favoured by the Hurricane squadrones. Furthermore the bombs were being used in great numbers on the roads and rails running in and out of London, and on the British infrastructure in general. Combined with the effort to mine the Thames, London began to get isolated from the rest of Britain and food, fuel and other resources became scare indeed. The lack of direct enemy attacks and the drop in basic commodities gave rise to a rather defaitistic atmosphere in the city.
Among the many preparations to Operation Orfeus, RLM and the Luftwaffe finally got around to replacing the Ju-52 transports of the aviation schools and various training outfits. The repalcement plane was the very versatile Siebel Si-204 made by the otherwise fairly unknown Siebel Flugzeugwerke KG. The Siebel Si-204 was to serve as a trainer, transport, ambulance and utility aircraft, while the Ju-52’s were concentrated with the ones already serving with the Lufttransportflotte – Air Transport Fleet, Luftwaffe’s dedicated air transport arm. The Si-204 was used throughout the war as a jack of all trades type aircraft, with over 2,000 being produced in various factories by war's end.
The Junckers Ju-52 Transporter itself would eventually – probably for the best, considering the losses during Operations Feldherrenhalle, Hermann and Orfeus, the last combat mission in which the Ju-52 was unsed in numbers – be replaced as Luftwaffe’s main transport aircraft and workhorse by the Ju-252. The Ju-252 was an unarmed aircraft with room for 35 passengers in a pressurized body. The Ju-252 had an exceptional performance, and was maninly built by cheap non-strategic materials. A hydraulically powered Trapoklappe - rear loading ramp - allowed loading of heavy vehicles or freight whilst holding the fuselage level. The Ju-252 would be in service along with the diminissing fleet of Ju-52 and the bigger Ju-290 armed transporter and the huge Messerscmidt Me-323.
A Sea on Fire
Orders came for sailing
Somewhere over there
All confined to barracks
'Twas more than I could bear
I knew you were waiting in the street
I heard your feet
But could not meet
My Lili of the lamplight
My own Lili Marlene
- Vera Lynn, Lili Marlene.
My flaws are the only thing left that’s pure
Can’t really live, can’t really endure
Everything I see reminds me of her
God I wish I didn’t care anymore
The more I touch, the less I feel
I’m lying to myself that it’s not real
Why is everybody making such a big fucking deal?
I’m never gonna care anymore
What the hell am I doing?
Is there anyone left in my life?
What the fuck was I thinking?
Anybody want to tell me I’m fine?
Where the hell am I going?
Do I even need a reason to hide?
I am only betrayed
I am only conditioned to die
- Slipknot, Everything Ends.
In OKM and OKL respectively the final preparations for Operation Karin and Orfeus had now been made. In Norway, out of sight airfields had been enlarged or constructed from nothing by the hard working Luftwaffe Construction Brigades of newly promoted Luftwaffe Oberst Speer. The fact that Speer was now serving as a Luftwaffe officer, albiet only as a glorified Pioneer, was yet another slight Hitler would never forgive Wever for – time spend on building new air fields and the like was time not spend on building great monuments and what not to Hitler and Nationalsocialism -, but Speer had proven himself extremely capable and Wever needed him to have some sort of authority. As it were, however, the KLK and Luftwaffe’s Luftflotte 5 now had several more or less undetected out of the way air fields in Norway where they now concentrated their navalized He-111’s and He-177’s of Luftwaffe’s Schwere Kampfgeschwader 12 and a series of other planes needed for Operation Karin. At the more well-known air fields at Bergen, Stavanger and around Trondheim, the damaged planes and a handful of still functioning planes where left in plain sigt. Reinforcements were brought to Norway via Sweden and under all sorts of disguises. Opr. Karin relied on the British Royal Navy believing that the KLK and Luftwaffe in Norway was out of the game for a brief time, so OKL and OKM did all they could to lull the British into a false sense of security.
In Kiel, the new and nearly untested ships of Schlachtgruppe Bachmann, the carrier KM Hermann Göring and the mighty battleship KM Bismarck along with their escorts, was ready to sortie. Radio signals filled the air as the ships got under way. Apparently the air complement of the Göring was not quite ready yet, so most of the carrier’s planes would have to be picked up at Trondheim. An uncoded message from a very angry Kapitän zur See Densch, the Göring’s captain, was aired in respons to these news. At the Britsh Royal Navy’s Office of Naval Intelligence, this was viewed with great interest.
From their bases at Wilhelmshafen and Kiel U-boote, having finished a hasty refit, began to sneak out to sea – a series of dummies left in their place – and headed north-northwest to their new duty stations. Meanwhile surface elements of the Kriegsmarine continued to gather at Wilhelmshafen, while lighter vessels, E-boote and a few destroyers deployed to the French Channel harbours.
Another type of vessels was gathering in Channel ports as well. As part of misdirection, the Kriegsmarine deployed their limited stock of landing crafts to habours opposing Dover and the Ramsgate- area. Wihtout the river barges that Bormann and Schacht refursed to give up, the Kriegsmarine's capacity for amphibious operations was in reality very small, but with subterfuge, dummies and the like some sort of threat was created. The available crafts included the Marinefährprähme - Naval Landing Crafts -, which had just entered service, having received priority since Opr.Feldherrenhalle and the Marine-Artillerie-Leichter, MAL – Naval Artillery Lichter-, used by by marines from the Kriegsmarine’s Kampfgruppen and Sonderabteillungen along with commandos from Abwehr’s Brandenburg-force of Feldherrenhalle-fame. Furthermore the Kriegsmarine possesed a series of Siebel Ferries. Even two of the experimental VS hydrofoil transports were deployed to the Pas de Calais area.
The Marinefährprahme, or MFP’s, were vessels built for universal use. They could double as both transport vessel and combat transports as well as supply ships. Furthermore they could be upgraded to serve as gun boats, mine layers or sweepers. They MFP’s were large, reliable ships capable of hauling 200 fully armed soldiers or over 140 tonnes of equipment in rough weather.
The Marine Artillerie Leichter, MAL’s, were among the smallest landing craft in service of the Kriegsmarine and were more or less didicated to the function of assault craft because of its realtive small size. The MAL’s were designed after the requirements of the Heer, and could be transported by land, albiet with some difficulty. The MAL-design would prove its usefullness during Operation Friedrich der Grosse, where MAL’s were used extensively in the Caspian Sea, Sea of Azov, the Leningrad-area and the Black Sea.
The Siebelfähre, or Siebel Ferry - named after its inventor -, was a heavy transport ferry made by joining two pontoons – normally used for bridging by the Heer’s pioneers – in a catamaran-like structure and fixing BMW aircraft engines at their rear ends. The construction was topped by a large platform with two ramps – one at each end, utilizing the new drive on/off concept. There were several versions of the Siebelfähre planned from artillery ferries to invasion command or hospital ferries, but at the time of Opr.Orfeus only a few of the transports were built. Several mock-ups were created, however, in Channel ports near Dover and Ramsgate.
Besides the conventional designs for transports, landing crafts and assault ships, the German Kriegsmarine had experimented with a number hydrofoil designs – vessels lifted out of the water by high speeds and thus riding on a fairly small surface, the wing-foils, and thereby reducing drag - since the late 30’s. Most of the designs were design studies for fast attack crafts, a kind of super E-boot, but some were for fast assault transports or fast transports. The two VS-ships were of the latter kind and herefor classified as Fast Hydrofoil Transport VS-1 and VS-2. The VS-series was able to transport a medium tank and could double as a fast mine layer.
Light Heer units – perfect for amphibious operations - were deploying along the Channel coast as well, as were the Kriegsmarine’s marines – the Kampfgruppen of Feldherrenhalle fame and two Sonderabteillungen, Tirpitz and Bergmann. The last Sonderabteillung, Ingenohl, and Abwehr’s Brandenburg-commandos were secretly being deployed further south along with Air General Student’s 7th Paratroop Division, the 22nd Air Landing Division and General Dietle’s 3rd Gebirgsjäger Division. The entire force was determined for Operation Orfeus, the airborne invasion of the Isle of Wight. Student himself had decided to lead the airborn eattack, the greatest evermade. Opr.Orfeus called for a three waved attack and several follow-up flights with reinforcements, supplies and equipment and the use of Luftwaffe’s Constrcution Brgades to repair and expand RAF’s airfields on the Isle, as it would be vital for the succes of Orfeus to have local fighter cover and close air support at hand. Ju-52’s and modified Focke-Achgelis Fa-284 helicopters would carry the troops from their bases in France to their destination off the coast of Southern Britain. Operation Orfeus was intended to be the straw that finally broke the camel’s back, so to say. In all three branches of the German Wehrmacht, as well as the OKW itself, the dominating view was, that the British was becoming increasingly war-weary and they just needed the final nudge to have them accept a peace offer. Operations Karin and Orfues was in tandem designed to provide that final nudge…
With the departure of Schlachtgruppe Bachmann from Kiel, Operation Karin was in operation. KM Göring, lacking a significant part of its air complement, KM Bismarck and their escoerts was steaming north towards Trondheim in Norway. Meanwhile, the Luftwaffe and KLK had withdrawn from their usual airbasses in Norway in the hope of luring the Royal Navy’s Home Fleet, its last truly battle worthy element, out to fight, where the Germans could get at them.
In London, the First Sea Lord, Admiral Sir Dudley Pound, was in two minds. Intelligence indicated that the enemy’s air power in Norway was temporarily out of the picture, and thus any naval engagement would by fought under at least a neutral sky. But deep down, Pound was worried, the apparently planes-less Göring and the not quite tested Bismarck was looking a little too much as bait to him, and where there was a bait, there was a trap to be damn sure! Still, he could not allow to the German Battle Group – Schlachtgruppe Bachmann, was the German term -, to break out into the Atlantic. The supply situation was bad enough as it were, with so many port cities nearly reduced to rubble and thus basicly useless. Only God knew what would happen if these ships were allowed to wreck havoc on the Atlantic convoys. Furthermore he had the PM asking him daily for good news, and the not quite opposition of Labour and rogue Conservative screaming at him for not doing enough. With a heavy heart Pound ordered Home Fleet to intercept the German ships, and to head south towards the Channel afterwards, the threat of invasion loomed evernearer as more and more German ships deployed to the Channel. Pound and his staff had determined that they would have close to a week before the German Fleet gathering in Wilhelmshaven was ready for action and actually could reach the Channel. Furthermore it looked like most of the U-boote was at port for repair and refit as well. Yes, there would be time for the destruction of Admiral Bachmann’s force and them some to spare, before anything happened in the Channel, Pound was sure of it.
From its bases in Northern Scotland, the Royal Navy’s Home Fleet began to form up around the famous HMS Hood, and the three battleships, Prince of Wales, Rodney and Nelson, as well as the battlecruiser Repulse and three elder carriers. Several heavy and light cruisers as well as a powerful destroyer screen was added to this already quite potent force. The RN had taken abeating during the last monthes, but it was far from dead yet! A single periscope spotted the huge mass of ships as they steamed out to meet the German Battle Group.
July 24th, 2006, 08:24 AM
You give up on yourself
Somehow you got betrayed again
Thin ice and luck runs out
Who will you blame it on this time?
Due to lack of interest in you
The light at the end of the tunnel
Was turned off
And something I noticed
Beating you is thrilling me
I've got a secret for you
If you took your own direction
If only you practice what you preach
If you follow your advice
You wouldn't be burning bridges all the time
- Megadeath, Burning Bridges.
He’ll have you down on your knees
You play his fatal game
He’ll satisfy your every need
You’ll never be the same
- Slayer, Aggressive Perfector
In both OKL and OKM staff officers and their commanders in chief, respectively Air General Wever and Admiral Raeder, had their eyes fixed on situation reports and meterological dittos from and for the North Sea. Weather so far looked good as the planners of Operation Karin – the destruction of the Royal Navy’s Home Fleet – had hoped for. At this time of year the weather should be fine, but one never really knew with the North Sea. The situation reports indicated that all was going according to plan as well, units were deploying as they should, so no human problems to worry about either.
The German U-boote, having reached their duty stations only mere days before, now began to converge on the ships of the Home Fleet, while other placed themselves in a picket line where they almost certainly would block the British line of retreat. Finally a few U-boote, one commanded by no other than Gunther Prien – the Chief of Operations himself -, approached the Royal Navy’s Home Fleet main anchorage at Scapa Flow. During the deployment a few incidents naturally occurred, but nothing major or truly disturbing. Actually, Konteradmiral von Friedeburg, the new Befehlshaber der Unterseeboote – Commander-in-Chief of the Submarine Arm of the Kriegsmarine – would have worried if none of his U-boote had been spotted and engaged – silence facilitates paranoia, and that was not a state of mind he wished for the Royal Navy’s Admiralty to be in. Nearly all of the German U-boote deemed operational had been made available for this mission, and subsequently some 40 boats were able to deploy as part of Operation Karin. The U-boote that converged on the British Home Fleet steaming on an eastwards course had been ordered to attack whatever carriers that were among the ships and sink them at any cost the minute they got the codeword, and so the various U-boote commanders would – each and every of the ambitious, eager young men wanted to secure his name in the history books by sinking a British carrier, and who knew, then maybe even a battleship?!
From the port of Kiel Schlachtgruppe Bachmann was working its way north at a good speed, steaming through Skagarak and up along the Norwegian coastline. On the flag bridge of the KM Bismarck, Flag Admiral Bachmann was straining to keep still. It was not in his nature to act as bait, a bait that would most likely get eaten whole, but he could see the point. Could the British Home Fleet be destroyed, then the war would for all purpose be over. But still, to potentially sacrifice two splendid capital ships and several minor ships was not agreeing with his sense of how things should be.
In Norway, units of Luftflotte 5 and the Kriegsmarine’s Luftstreitkräfte Kommando – KLK- began to prepare for the operation as well. The last two weeks had been a contineous and mixed game of hide and seek and masquerade. It seemed, however, that it had worked; the British and their Norwegian allies in the resistance movement had no idea that both Luftwaffe’s mighty Luftflotte 5 and the KLK were up to full strength, even reinforced, and armed to the teeth with new weapons, just waiting to have a go at the Royal Navy’s big, fat capital ships. The pilots as well as air and ground crews were exuberant – they could end the war! They knew deep in their bones that this was their great chance, and by Good and the grace of the Führer they would sieze their chance and make the most of it!
The navalized He-111’s and a plethora of other aircraft from the KLK began to deploy to their old frontline airfields as did the heavy He-177 bombers of Luftwaffe’s Schwere Kampfgeschwader 12, the few Do-19’s still in active sevice and the Luftflotte’s ordinary medium bombers the JU-88’s and the few older He-111’s alongside the aging, but still quite effective Ju-87 divebombers. Droptank equipped Me-109, rigged for long range escort duty, soon followed suit. During the early hours of the 6th of September, 1940, a massive strike force assembled along the cost of central Norway. The planes only touched down for topping of their fuel supply and for whatever last minute changes there might be. It didn’t take long for the Norwegian resistance to notice and begin to radio London, but the information would not reach Admiral Pound on his Flagship, HMS Nelson, in time – actually it would not reach the poor Admiral at all.
Three of the valuable Do-19 command and control planes had been made available for Operation Karin – the rest being deployed as part of Operation Orfeus in northwestern France – and now took to the sky to keep an electronic eye on the British ships. One of the Do-19’s had been equipped with an experimental FMG-45 Valaskjalf downlooking RADAR. The Do-19 searched for the British ships in a wide search pattern and found them, acting on a U-boot report, around noon. Having located the British Home Fleet, orders were givin to begin Operation Karin.
Only a few of the German planes were armed with conventional muinitions as most of them were rigged for naval combat. It was hoped that the U-boote would take care of the British carriers, now that they came with Sea Hurricanes, but the light screen of Me-109’s was deemed sufficent to handle whatever airial opposition the Germans might run into. The majority fo the German aircrafts was thus armed with a combination of armour penetrating PD 2000 and 2500 bombs, Hs-33 rocket powered torpedo bombs and various models of Gustav Schwartz Propellerwerke’s rocket assisted glider bombs – the new Gustav XXV was for example wireguided to prevent any jamming and the Gustav XXc was equipped with new shapecharged warheads.
A destroyer in Admiral Pound’s force spotted a periscope at one o’clock and from then on all the way to midnight between the 6th and 7th of September, 1940, the North Sea became a warzone. The German U-boot was most likely sunk, but several others were now in reach of the British ships and therefor immediately began their attack runs. For nearly two hours a battle raged between the German U-boote and British surface vessels – a few British submariens did vector in to aid their fellow combattants, but had little impact on the fighting at that time – and left one carrier listing severly – soon to be abanoned – and one sinking rapidly. One light cruiser and two destroyes had also been either damaged beyond salvage or outright sunk. The German U-boote had been taking heavily losses, though, and was forced to break off the engagement. Due to their heavy losses and lack of torpedoes, the U-boote would be out of the battle for now. Schlachgruppe Bachmann – acting on orders from the Do-19’s now circling the battle zone - was, however, stearing directly at the British – to keep them interested so to say – while Luftwaffe and KLK air units began to appear. The remaining carrier, HMS Glorious, in Pound’s force launched all the planes it could, while receiving, rearming and subsequently launching planes from the two other carriers – as some had managed to get airborn besides the standing CAP. Me-109’s and Sea Hurricanes now duelled for air control – not really much of a battle since the Germans were superbly led by their airborn command and controll and outnumbered the fihgters of the British Fleet Air Arm – FAA - three to two. While the fighters duked it out, the FW-200, He-111 and JU-88’s came in low launching the multide of rocket powered anti-shipping weapons, torpedoes and even some regular bombs, while JU-87’s from Norway, with nearly the entire Schwere Kampfgeschwader 12 and a handfull of Do-19’s flying overhead, came in high. Even though the British AA-fire was devasting, the anti-aircraft gunners were overwhelmed and ship after ship got hit by bombs, torpedoes and various missiles. Even dodging and running like mad men, the ships could not escape the concerted and well-coordinated German air attack – a lesson the Royal navy would take to heart after this black day. HMS Nelson was the first capital ship to sink, followed by HMS Glorious and from then on it was pretty much a done deal. KM Bismarck, from extreme range, exchanged a few round with the far from combat, or even sea, ready HMS Prince of Wales, before the latter got hit by a PD 2000 and simply exploded. With Pound gone and the command structure messed up and the fleet more or less sinking around them the cruisers HMS Northfolk and HMS Southhampton rapidly disengaged and ran for home under full steam. Little good it would do them as they ran into the remaining U-boote on picket service and subsequently got torpedoed. Ironically, the Germans only major casualties, besides losing some 30 planes, was due to British submarines. As the Bristih naval forces tried to disengage, the KM Bismarck and the heavy cruiser KM Hipper was torpedoen by two British subs and sunk.
With the good news from the North Sea, Wever, with the consent of OKW, ordered Operation Orfeus to go a head.
To Invade or not to Invade…
Us, and them
And after all we’re only ordinary men.
Me, and you.
God only knows it’s not what we would choose to do.
Forward he cried from the rear
And the front rank died.
And the general sat and the lines on the map
Moved from side to side.
Black and blue
And who knows which is which and who is who.
Up and down.
But in the end it’s only round and round.
Haven’t you heard it’s a battle of words
The poster bearer cried.
Listen son, said the man with the gun
There’s room for you inside.
- Pink Floyd, Us & Them.
Longboats have been sighted the evidence of war has begun
Many nordic fighting men their swords and shields all gleam in the sun
Call to arms defend yourselves get ready to stand and fight for your lives
Judgement day has come around so be prepared don’t run stand your ground
They’re coming in from the sea
They’ve come the enemy
Beneath the blazing sun
The battle has to be won
Invaders ... pillaging
Invaders ... looting
- Iron Maiden, Invaders.
Approaching the deadline for Operation Orfeus, Hitler’s hands began to shake. Even with the victory of the North Sea under his belt, and the general success of his navy and air force against their British counterparts, Hitler had deep seated distrust, almost fear, of anything afloat. Hitler had never been keen on naval affaires and was terrified of the possibilty of a failure that would undermine all the successes so far. Nobody wanted a two front war, and Hitler had more or less already committed the Wehrmacht to an invasion of Soviet Russia in the early summer of 1941; Operation Friedrich der Grosse, and thus could not allow the Wehrmacht’s attention, and its resources, being diverted away from the main goal. Both Raeder and Wever, however, assured the nervous Führer that the combined forces of the Luftwaffe and Kriegmarine would be more than able to invade, take and hold the Isle of Wight. Operation Orfeus itself was more or less a guaranteed success. It was, however, up to him, their Führer, to insure a following peace with Britain.
Hitler finally agreed and gave his permission to launch Operation Orfeus – neither Wever or Milch had the stomach to tell him that the relevant forces were already moving as a result of the decisive sea and air battle fought, and won, earlier. Ironically, Hitler was far from intent on destroying or even forcing Britain into subsmission – Hitler alledgedly never even wanted a war with the stubbern Island nation, but got one nonetheless. At the strategic conference held in the aftermatch of Operation Karin, Hitler was unusually explicit about his, and therefore Germany’s, future plans, such as they were. Hitler’s ramplings on and about Britain would no doubt have baffled the Islanders, many who even now believed that Hitler was hell-bent on devouring the British Empire as he had numerous other nations during his reign. Especially Hitler’s comment that the will of good men can not counter the terrible strain of war would no doubt amuse some Brits with a wicked sense of humour. Generally speaking though, Hitler wanted Britain out of the way, so that he could concentrate on curtailing and destroying the greatest threat, as percieved by him, to Germany, the German Volk and European civilization; Soviet Russia. Having had first hand experience in the last war, Hitler, and his senior commanders – not to mention most of the germans themselves-, was as mentioned earlier loath to get involved in another two front war. Since Britain had ignored all Hitler’s wishes for peacefull co-existence – again, such as he saw it -, conflict was inevitable and thus Britain must be forced to to accept the next offer of peace by means of brute force. On September 9th, Hitler announced that the attack would begin the next day. The Isle of Wight was to be the target for a combined arms assault from both air and sea. At noon, Hitler left Berlin for his mountain retreat in Bavaria with his coterie of Golden Pheasants.
To keep the deception of a full scale amphibious invasion of Britain, the large German military formations along the Channel were at high alert and being reinforced all the time – in reality being brought up to full strenght after the French Campaign. The Germans worked hard at making their so-called invasion preparations a credible threat. Ships and vessels of all sorts being gathered at the various channel ports, units still flowing into the area, supplies still being stockpiled and so on. The Luftwaffe kept flying interdiction and other missions that could only be deemed as preparation for an upcomming invasion. From recently constructed gun sites superheavy artillery at Pas-de-Calis began to bombard the area between Dover and Hythe as well as the cities themselves. German units along the French, Dutch and Belgian coastlines as well as in country stoped using radios and went under total radio silence on the evening of the 9th of September. The planners at OKW, and OKH and L, hoped the British would think the Germans quite ready to go ahead with a full scale invasion…
Due to pressure from newly appointed First Sea Lord, Admiral John Tovey - Admiral Sir Dudley Pound’s successor -, the codeword Cavalier was sent at midnight bewteen the 9th of September and the 10th. Cavalier put the Home Forces on full alert and signalled imminent invasion. Admiral Tovey furthermore began to redeploy his meager naval assets, but was hampered by contineous Luftwaffe and KLK air attacks on both ships and habour facilities. Several RN commanders begged for permission to launch attacks on German occupied ports and habours along the Channel coast, but Tovey, knowing full well that he had preciously few ships left, for the time being said no!
The British public along with both Houses, the Imperial General Staff and the Halifax Governement were in respectively an uproar and deep crisis over the near total loss at the hands of the Germans in the battle of the North Sea. The domestic news papers were screaming for peace, war and the heads of several military commanders and politiical leaders, sometimes all at once. The foreign news papers was either aghast at the situation or slightly smug. In the German propaganda ministry, Dr.Goebbels as allways made the most of the German victories and the heroic figures of the Luftwaffe and the until now seriously outgunned Kriegsmarine. Whatever friends Britain had, besides their new near allies, Japan and Italy, began to seek closer ties with Germany instead – nobody backs a loser.
But losers sometimes backs a winner. From his radio studio in Berlin, William Joyce – dubed Lord Haw Haw by a witty Daily Express reporter -, hosted Germany Calling. Germany Calling was another of Goebbles propaganda tools and in general not very effective, at least not among the British. On the 9th, however, Lord Haw Haw captured a wider audience than else. His words were heard in much of Britain. “I make no apology for saying again that invasion is certainly coming soon, but what I want to impress upon you is that while you must feverishly take every conceivable precaution, nothing that you or the government can do is really of the slightest use. Don't be deceived by this lull before the storm, because the storm wil come. Rather ask yourself, why you find yourself in this hopeless situation! My dear listeners, if you were in Germany now you would see how little antagonism there is against the British people. The German people know as do the Führer that the British people are not in favour of permanent hostilities. Hitler is aware of the political, military and economic confusion in England, and is only waiting for the right moment. Then, when his moment comes, he will strike, and strike hard and bring peace by the force of arms!”
Basically, Britain was in deep trouble and the Halifax Government knew it. Even with reinforcements flowing in from all around the globe, many freed up from their former duties by the better relationship with Italy and Japan, the policy makers at Whitehall felt at a losss. They knew not what to do, other than seek peace as fast as possible. Even the Eden-Bevin-Attle Trojka saw no other way at this critical time either, but was reluctant to admit it in public. A midst this crisis, former PM, Chamberlain died after having been ill for some time – apparently cancer as well as stress had killed the former PM. Chamberlain would forever be remembered as the British Benedict Arnold - the Man Who Sold Europe. Chamberlain’s death had, however, another effect, Lord Halifax’ Government had for along time survived and been fairly sure of a majority in boh Houses due to Chmarelian’s still formidable support among the members. Now, with Chamberlain gone, Eden and his allies began to appear as a viable alternative to Halifax. Still, the British leadership were reeling as a price fighter after a near knockout. As the politicians argued and the IGS was frozen by lack of leadership and direction – C-in-C of Home Forces, General Allan Cunningham, was having a near-nerveous breakdown and the Chief of the IGS, General Dill, though competent enough, was simply being overwhelmed be the task at hand and was also beginning to show the strain - the Germans, quite literally, landed puch number two, Operation Orfeus…
The Doors of Hades stands Ajar
Peace at any price
With a gun to your head, bang, bang
Weakness runs in your family
What runs in mine is death
This is your 5 minute warning
Burn all of your classified documents
And if cooler heads don't prevail
First strike from a political dead man
Appeasement only makes the aggressor more aggressive
He understands only one language - action
And he respects only one word - force
No sign of them stopping, no time for back channel communiques
We need all the help we can get, air strikes and invasions, retaliate, I say!
The will of good men can not counter the terrible strain of war
- Megadeath, Blackmail the Universe.
You’ll take my life but I’ll take yours too
You’ll fire you musket but I’ll run you through
So when your waiting for the next attack
You’d better stand there’s no turning back
The bugle sounds as the charge begins
But on this battlefield no one wins
The smell of arcrid smoke and horses breath
As you plunge into a certain death
- Iron Maiden, The Trooper.
Marines from the Kriegsmarine’s Sonderabteillung Ingenohl and Commandos from Abwehr’s Brandenburg regiment were the first units to go at the stroke of midnigth. From their bases in Northern France, the Marines set to sea and headed out for the Isle of Wight, while the Brandenburgers deployed from U-boote and in one instance a Spanish ship. The Brandenburgers landed at several key points on the Isle of Wight and snug ashore with no opposition. The German Commandos used British uniforms and for most parts also spoke British – in post-war Britain rumours were about that some even were British or Irish - to secure that they got to their intended targets without being stopped, or at least without much trouble. While the Brandenbrugers moved silently inland and struck their targets one by one, the Marines moved in their van and took command of the captured installations in something like numbers. Of course the entire mission relied on the follow-up forces of Air General Student.
In the early morning of september the 10th, the avantgarde of Student’s 7th Paratroop Division and the 22nd Air Landing Division launched their attack as planned. The attack came in three waves, first gliderborne sturmpioneren as seen in both Norway and Holland, then a larger paradroop and finally a combined glider and paradrop operation to land as many men and light equipment as possible. Nearly the entire available fleet of Ju-52’s and other lesser well known transport aircraft were used in Operation Orfeus. As part of third wave was fuel heavy helicopters operating on their extereme range and under a protective umbrella of Me-109’s. The helicopters would play a vital part in shifting the German troops around the Isle of Wight, thus speeding up the German take-over operation immensely. Later, Field Marshall Brooke of the Combined Imperial Staff would admit that the British originally got the idea of Airborne Dragoons from the German use of helicopters in Operation Orfeus, as well as the idea of helicopter gunships.
As Schnellbombere, StuKas and Panzerknäckere blasted several key locations as well as air bases on the south coast of Britain more for effect than true damage, gliders landed and helicopters touched ground, while air transports flew overhead and disgorged stick after stick of Fallschirmsjäger. With the various military installations in utter confusion, the veteran German paratroopers secured their objectives with next to no casualties – except for one major incident where two Ju-52’s collided due to heavy cross winds. So far, however, Operation Orfeus was going well, very well indeed. Within the hour, a unit from Luftwaffe’s Construction Brigades had landed and begun to construct two rough airfields. The Construction Brigades played an absolutely vital role in Opr. Orfeus. The LCB’s needed to construct airfields capable of handling Ju-52’s, otherwise the invasion might fail because of the lack of supplies and reinforcements.
Just as the first German units landed on the Isle of Wight the entire Channel coast became a beehive of activity as both the Luftwaffe and the Kriegsmarine stepped up their operations in the area to a frantic pace. In OKL, it was judged that this level of action could be sustained for no more than 24 hours, but those 24 hours would be critical. Could the British be forced to negotiate a peace, then the charade and all the hard work had paid off, if not…
With the local defenses in disaray due to the Brandenburgers quite ungentleman like infiltration tactics – several Home Guard and a few regular army units from the small local garrisons actually engaged each other in the belief that their opposit numbers were Germans - and the fast moving Marines and Fallschirmsjäger, no serious resistance was encountered from either the British Army, nor the broken remnants of the once proud Royal Air Force.
The LCB’s had made the first usable airstrip at around three o’clock in the day and roughly one hourd later, the first transporters carrying the first unit of General Dietle’s Gebirgsjäger as well as the rest of 7th Paratroop Division and the 22nd Air Landing Division began to land on the isle of Wight. The transporters also carried more gear and materials for the LCB and the airfield was soon expanded and on the 11th a second airstrip became operational. At the same time Luftwaffe fighter planes – in reality only four, but the numbers were grossly exagerated by both the Germans and British for each their own reasons - began to operate from the Isle. The fighters had not any real aerial use, as the RAF was nowhere to be seen, but their presence alone was a severe blow to British morale and a ditto boost to the German forces fanning out across the Isle.
In the Admiralty, First Sea Lord, Admiral John Tovey, finally ordered everything thrown at the continental staging points for an invasion of Britain. The commander of Nore Commander, Admiral Plunket, responded with great aggressiveness and sent two light cruisers, 10 destroyers and every avialable MTB against the German occupied Channel ports. The attack was launched after darkness fell and included strikes on Dunkerque, Calais, Boulogne and Ostende and was a moderate success, but the casualties – one cruiser and four destroyers - prevented Tovey form ordering another attack the night after. The German use of RADAR had proven even night time attacks to be rather costly, and at present the Royal Navy could ill afford the price.
General Dill soon was forced to take direct charge as General Cunningham cracked completely under the pressure and was hospitalized. Dill saw that there was little he could other than order his too few and too weak divisons to dig in and await the onslaught from across the Channel. He did, however, order formations in Southern Britain to move south and engage if possible. Dill had little hope, nor any real faith that it would make a difference though.
Several members of the armed forces along with Eden pressed for attacks on the German bridgeheads on the Isle of Wight with chemical weapons, but Dill, Halifax and the Minister of Defence, Henry Channon, vetoed the idea! The MoD, who clearly feared German reprisals and saw no reason for continued resistance – truth be told, so did most of the Halifax cabinet -, said: "The very idea! How horrible, fantastic, incredible it is that we should be digging trenches and trying on gas masks here becuase of a quarrel with a people who bear us no ill will! Oh, it is all so bad that one can only make the best of it, and re-organise one's life accordingly!” Needless to say, Channon found find himself on the first boat to the United States when Eden became PM in ’43. Channon nearly got prosecuted for high treason, but cooler tempers prevailed and he was merely stripped of all titles, his citizenship and exiled to his native land.
After having read and mentally digested the latest reports, Primeminster Halifax met with his Cabinet and among others Anthony Eden in the early morning of the 11th of September. Later, Clement Attlee, the Labour leader, would recall that the PM looked pale and shrunken, but that Eden spoke with great passion. “So, it has finally come about. The abyss the Empire has been hurtling towards for years has been reached. The Germans has landed on British soil! On British soil for God’s sake!!! And it is all due to a legacy of appeasement and a foreign policy we Britons can only be deeply ashamed of!” Nonetheless, the Hawks, as Eden and his allies in the Trojka had been known for some time in the news papers, acknowleged the fact, that peace must be reached before it was too late. They gave Halifax the political backing to seek out a peace. As Eden said: “With German armies streaming across the Channel as we speak, we have little choice in the matter anymore, but let us make sure that it will never, ever happen again!”
July 27th, 2006, 04:38 PM
It’s over when the Fat Man sing
Seadrops foam all empty human skulls
Those on the shores of Atlantis
Darwin's resurrection is witnessed
By turtles he used to play with
Healed and happy She oversees
The tyrant's return to the sea
- Nightwish, A Return To The Sea
Today the wars have ended
And I am changed forever on
I’ve stopped the bleeding
From my head
And held my hands up high!
- Carpark North, Homeland.
Confusion and panic were the two dominant feelings in Southern Britain in early September, 1940. As Cavalier was acted upon, civilians were evacuated from the Channel area. As they streamed inland, tired and raw troops tried to get positioned along the coastline and the GHQ defence line south of London. Quite a few civilians not under direct order to evacuate, began to flee from what they thought would soon turn into a warzone. Chaos reigned on the roads of Kent and Sussex, but it was nothing compared to the destruction waged upon Dorsetshire and Hampshire. Aircraft from Luftwaffe’s Luftflotte 3 flew unchallenged over said counties and attacked anything that moved be it by road, rail or sea. The targets attacked was more often than not civilians fleeing. When the panic rescinded, the many unnecessary deaths would fuel the British lust for revenge for years to come.
The mood in London was more subdued, closer to being directly defaitistic. The words of the hated German Führer, Adolf Hitler, seemed true: the will of good men could not counter the terrible strain of war. And the Halifax Government seemed to embody these words as the men in Whitehall grasped happily at the German peace offer delivered via the embassy in Washington in the morning of September the 12th, 1940.
While there had been some serious fighting in and around Cowes on the Isle of Wight, the defences of the isle had fallen rapidly to the air mobile and battle hardened German troops. The counter-attack ordered by General Dill, Chief of the IGS and acting C-in-C Home Forces, from mainland Britain against the Germans at the Isle had been stalled before it got under way. As the under strength 4th Infantry Division stationed near Portsmouth and the Australians in the AIF Division north of Winchester began to move, they came under heavy Luftwaffe attack – interdiction showed to be something of a Luftwaffe specialty -, as did the Southern port cities of Southhampton and Portsmouth. The two divisions nearly broke completely under the strain and while some officers rallied their men – especially the Australians proved to be men of impressive personal courage - and pushed on, the ports to be used for staging the counter-attack was being pommeled by Luftwaffe, and thus useless. The counter-attack soon fizzled out. All along the Channel Luftwaffe and Kreigmarine units, be it KLK planes from Ghent or actual naval vessels, had driven the remaining Royal Navy from the Channel or into hiding. Admiral Plunket’s command had lost yet another light cruiser and two detroyers during their travails in the Channel. Britain seemed wide open for an invasion…
Not only had the complete defeat of the British Expeditionary Force in France robbed the Army of most of its most talented officers - some like Brooke, Horrocks and Alexander would, however, reappear to haunt the Germans -, it had robbed its men of spirit. The British forces in the UK and Northern Irland numberend around 20 divisons, with more being raised and numerous brigades, but all were basically raw, understrenght and without the equipment needed to fight a modern war, or any kind of war for that matter. Furthermore hampered by the lack of fighter aircraft, trained pilots and aviation fuel the Royal Air Force - another branch of the Armed Forces that had seen the best and finest amongst its ranks die at the hands of what appeared as a nearly superhuman enemy – to a degree that made its Fighter Command unable to offer much resistance. As always, Britain had to rely on its navy, but that navy had in all but name been reduced to scrap in the North Sea Battle. It was over…
The American ambassador, Joseph Kennedy, was happy to report that his prediction made earlier regarding the British will and means to resist seemed correct. Kennedy would later be asked to leave Britain by an infuriated Foreign Minister, and new Government strongman, Anthony Eden. The Ambassador Crisis would herald the end of the US-British special relationship and in many ways also the New Britain slowly emerging from defeat.
On the 1st of October, 1940, PM Halifax met with Adolf Hitler and signed the Paris Peace Accord. In many ways the British got off easy as they had to agree on keeping a fairly low level of troops, ships and planes in Southwestern Britain, return Iceland and Greenland to Danish control, accept German supremacy, not direct rule, over the European mainland and finally pay some amount of reparations for the destruction meted out on German cities. As part of the final demand, there was to be a public war crimes trial of Air General Harris along with an excuse for the City Bombings. A PoW exchange was orchestrated as well. Ironically enough the lack of severity in the peace aggreement would further fuel the Britons lust for revenge as they felt deeply humiliated by an enemy not taking the Empire serious enough to impose stricter terms.
In Berlin, Hitler and most of his inner circle, as well as Wehrmacht commanders on all levels rejoiced; they had gotten away from a war with Britain as victors. Hitler basked in the fact that even Napoleon could not boast of such an accomplishment! Little did he suspect, that as the Peace of Amiens had been nothing but a breather so would the Paris Peace Accord. Of course that was not known at the time and the Germans celebrated their incredible victory.
On the 4th of October, three days after the signing of the Paris Peace Accord, Hitler announced that 12 of his Generals would be elevated to the rank of Generalfeldmarschall - Field Marshal. The new Field Marshals received their batons at an impressive ceremony at the Reich Chancellory in Berlin. Among those thus promoted were Wever, Milch and Kesselring. At the same time, most likely due to one of his strange mood swings, Hitler replaced the otherwise very loyal General Keitel as chief of the OKW with the newly promonted von Manstein and made another Field Marshal, Guderian, head of the OKH. On the 10th of October, Hitler furthermore reshuffled the Luftwaffe leadership as well as his Cabinet. Wever was retired and replaced by Field Marshal Kesselring. In the RLM Milch was replaced by von Richthofen, but went on to become Armaments Minister with full control of Germany’s armaments industry. Schacht was also retired and replaced by Funk. Now the Reich’s economy and armaments industry were basically in the hands of only three men: Milch, Funk and Bormann.
War is Over and Peace has Begun
There’s a place in the world for the angry young man
With his working class ties and his radical plans
He refuses to bend, he refuses to crawl,
He’s always at home with his back to the wall.
And he’s proud of his scars and the battles he’s lost,
And he struggles and bleeds as he hangs on the cross-
And he likes to be known as the angry young man.
Give a moment or two to the angry young man,
With his foot in his mouth and his heart in his hand.
He’s been stabbed in the back, he’s been misunderstood,
It’s a comfort to know his intentions are good.
And he sits in a room with a lock on the door,
With his maps and his medals laid out on the floor-
And he likes to be known as the angry young man.
- Billy Joel, Angry Young Man.
The world is burning down
Can’t you smell the smoke in the air?
War, disease and famine
This demon, she is everywhere
Poets and preachers and politicians
They’ve all had their say
And we’ve got 10,000 years
Devoted to nothing
But tommorow and yesterday
If all of the ignorance in the world
Passed a second ago
What would you say?
Who would you obey?
- Live, 10,000 Years.
Between the final battles in mid-September and the signing of the Paris Peace Accord on the 1st of October, 1940, the Western Front was eeriely quiet as an armistice naturally was in place, but huge formations of armed men still stood ready on land, entire air fleets flew patrols in the air and flotillas plowed through the seas. All ready for continued action, but no orders would be given, instead men would soon begin moving East or stand down. In the various military and political headquarters in Germany, planning was already proceding rapidly for the next war! Unternehmen – German for operation - Friedrich der Grosse would be the worlds largest military operation seen so far, and one that Hitler really looked forward to – this was the war he wanted, not one against Aryan Albion. Nearly 200 divisons and almost 5,000 combat aircrafts would soon be thrown at the USSR.
Having promoted several successful, and loyal, commanders to the exalted rank of Feldmarschal - Field Marshal – and rearranged his Cabinet, Hitler submerged himself in the planning of Unternehmen Friedrich der Grosse. Hitler’s ideas were often surprisingly in accord with those of Field Marshals Heinrich Guderian, the head of the OKH, and Erich von Manstein, chief of the OKW. Ironically enough the five headquarters, the FHQ – basically Hitler’s own staff and headquarter -, OKW, OKH, OKL and OKM seem to coorperate quite well with von Manstein, Guderian, Kesselring and Raeder at their respective helms. Both von Manstein and Guderian, as well as Kesselring to a lesser degree, used their new positions to rearrange their commands a fair bit. General Jodl, Cheif of Operations in the OKW, was much to his new boss’ surprise a very capable officer if somewhat hidebound and thus stayed in control of Operations, while a series of other officers either got the boot or got promoted sideways, as for example Keitel, who ended up as the FHQ chief of military affaires.
While military plans were drawn up and refined in Germany by the Generals and their staffs, the diplomates of Joachim von Ribbentrop’s Foreign Minister, as well as the Fuhrer’s personal envoys and representatives were busy restructuring Europe and parts of Africa as well.
Belgium siezed to exist as its southern provinces became French, as did Congo – some border ajustments were made to accomodate the British in Africa -, and the Flemish provinces became part of the new state of Holland with its new capital at the small town of Diksmuide. A state basically run by Jeroom Gustaaf de Clercq and his fascist VNV - Vlaams Nationaal Verbond – and Anton Mussert’s Nationaal-Socialistische Beweging - National Socialist Movement – or NSB for short. In 1936, the VNV had gained 13.6% of Flemish votes, and in 1939 14.7%. In contrast, the NSB had done very badly in the open elections, only winning 4 seats in the second chamber of the old Dutch parliament, but were generally considered to be loyal to the Nazi cause. Now, the VNV and to a lesser extend the NSB provided the new state with leaders and adminstrators, some who would be among the most fanatical Hitlerites seen and even better at rooting out Jews and other undesirables than the Rexists in France. The VNV and NSB would feud over power, resources and prestige during the short life of the state of Holland, but to the erratic Nazis it was as it should be – the strong survive and all that.
During the Eastern War, the Hollander volunteer Legions, serving with the Waffen-SS, would provide some of the toughest combat formations on the Eastern Front. Some 40,000 Hollandere and former Belgians (basically Flemings, as the Walloons would serve with the French SS-formations) would serve on the Eastern Front. The survivers would later form the nucleus of the anti-British movement on the Continent. The new state of Holland would have its problems with France as anybody with any form of francophone sympaties or even French connections were rooted out with great enthusiasm, so to say, and often got shipped of to the containment camps as Jews, Gypsies or Homosexuals.
Leon Degrelle – one of Hitler’s favorites -, and his national-socialistic Rex Movement ended up playing a major role in French politics after the break-up of Belgium, mainly due to their leaders close relatioship with Germany, and Hitler himself. Leon Degrelle and Jacques Doriot would lead France into an ever closer relationship with the Third Reich and as a result thousands of young Frenchmen would die on the Eastern Front as well as labor in the German arms industry. Degrelle himself would oversee the creation of the French SS-formations and later lead them into combat.
Doriot, who had once been a stout supporter of Communism, soon wormed his way into power as Premier along with the old WW1 hero and Marshal of France, Henri Petain, who would become France’s first post-war President. Amazingly enough both Doriot and Petain, together with Degrelle proved to be quite popular with the French public. And just as Jeroom Gustaaf de Clercq in Holland, the trio proved to be among the most arden supporters of Adolf Hitler. Doriot and Degrelle organized their supporters in a French equivalent to the old Belgian Rex Movement and soon introduced both a youth movement and paramilitary formations. Petain, true to his own twisted ideals, remaind aloof of political affiliations, but let himself be used by the New Rex Movement for propaganda.
For a breif time just after the Paris Peace Accord it seemed that France as very close to a civil war as Communists, and quite a few Socialists as well, went on strike and some hotheads, maybe agent provocateurs, called for armed resistance. Nonetheless the French Army along with paramilitary Rexists, SS-units and German army formations cracked down hard and crushed the Communists. Thousands and thousands were shipped off to the containment and work camps, and thousands of others were shot after a breif trial by a SS-tribunal with representatives from the Doriot’s governement. Rexists and the far righters carried out their own vendettas until the Germans, of all people, stepped in.
As part of the deal with France, Luxembourg and Alsace-Lorraine were respectively annexed and reannexed by the Third Reich. Most German military personel would leave France, but some would stay on at the Kriegsmarine bases of Brest – shared with the French Navy – and Saint Nazire, where the KLK also had a major base. A French volunteer formation – the later named 22nd SS-Legion Karl Martel – was based outside Paris with some purely advisory German units – in reality a full division under direct OKW command. The Gestapo and SS would be free to operate in France, but only after informing and securing cooperation from the French authorities. Needless to say, few SS-men ever bothered to do this. French industry would be reorganized by Milch and Funks ministries respectively and subordinated to Bormann’s Four Year Plan office. As in Denmark, Norway and Holland, the men from the Four Year Office as well as Milch’s subordinates would have a significant say in domestic French affaires.
The isle of Madagascar would serve as a new haven, so to say, for all of Europe’s Jews. They would be shipped from containment camps run by the SS to the island as quickly as possible. Hilter took great interest in the matter and appointed Reinhardt Heydrich as head of the relocation programme. Mostly British, Italian and French ships were used, but some Danish and Norwegian vessels were hired as well. The whole operation would be paid for via war reparations from Britain, Holland and France. Thousands of Jews, especially after the war with the Soviet Union had begun, died in containment camps, work camps and in transit along with PoW’s and other – in the eyes of the Nazi’s – undesirables.
Denmark would serve more as vassal state than an independent country, but Hitler’s fondness for the pure blooded descendants of the Vikings prevented a total annnexation. So the Danes kept their King and Parliament, while Norway had to endure years under Vidkun Quisling and his Nazi handler, Arthur Seyss-Inquart. The Germans had promissed not to station major naval or air units in either country as part of the Paris Peace Accord and kept their word, but ever so slowly a major build-up of land units happened in norther Norway and along the Swedish border. Along with the German military units, the SS began to enlist soldiers for the SS-Legions. With little success in Norway, pehaps due to the unpopular Quisling, but with quite some success in Denmark. The success in Denmark was mainly due to the silent endorsement of the official Denmark and charismatic men like Kryssing, von Schallburg and Martens. As with both Holland and France several thousands of young men would perish in the frozen wastelands of the USSR. For some reason Luftwaffe saw a disproportional influx of volunteers from Denmark. Enough to form an all-Danish staffeln. Furthermore, both countries saw extensive reorganization of their industry to better suit their masters in the Third Reich. On occasion it was noted that Borman, Milch and Funk’s envoys and flunkies were more important and powerfull than the Premiers of the two countries.
July 31st, 2006, 03:56 PM
A World turned Upside Down
The future was wide open
Into the great wide open,
Under them skies of blue
Out in the great wide open,
A rebel without a clue
Into the great wide open,
Under them skies of blue
Into the great wide open,
A rebel without a clue
- Tom Petty, Into the great wide open.
In the howling wind comes a stinging rain
See it driving nails into souls on the tree of pain
from the firefly, a red orange glow
See the face of fear running scared in the valley below
Bullet the blue sky
Bullet the blue sky
Bullet the blue
Bullet the blue
In the locust wind comes a rattle and hum
Jacob wrestled the angel and the angel was overcome
Plant a demon seed, you raise a flower of fire
See them burning crosses, see the flames, higher and higher
- U2, Bullet the Blue Sky.
In the US the European War was making fairly few waves, but some effect the conflict nonetheless had. It seemed that only President Roosevelt felt an inkling of sympathy for the British Cause – as it quite often was called in a rather nasty sarcastic tone in Washington – and the beleaguered British government, but the British Premier, Halifax, didn’t seem to hold much sway over FDR, or any other American, so nothing really came of all the hard diplomatic ground work being done by the British Embassy, or by Winston Churchill’s tour of the States. On the contrary, the restraint shown by the Germans seemed to carry more favour among the American public, Being in the grip of the continued depression, many Americans shared an infatuation with the glorified German Kampffligere and the view that Churchill was a classical tragic hero and victim of the nefarious Lord Halifax.
Hitler’s rise to power had originally been treated with a kind of detached amusement in the USA and then with some kind of understanding and grudging respect in the first years of his reign – didn’t he put the workless to work, feed the starving and so on? -, and now, finally, besides the growing impression that Hitler was a winner despite of all odds – and Americans always liked those – the defeat of the British strengthened the hand of those who believed that the United States needed to stay out of European affairs. The American sympathy for Hitler and the victorious Germans also underlined the fact that quite a few Americans felt a latent racism themselves. While it was not so much directed at the Jews, even though the dominant feeling was that there were perhaps too many of those people on the loose – it was, however, very much directed at Asians and Blacks. Several highly racist organisations used the success of the Germans as an indicator that there really was such a thing as racial superior beings. The Race Question became an especially sore and disputed point during the Presidential Elections of 1944 and ’48, and might during the latter have torn the country apart had it not been for a young Texan politician, Lyndon Johnson, and his cool-headed supporters in the Deep South.
During the present Presidential Election, the Republicans attempted to capitalize on Roosevelt’s sympaties for the British Cause and generel interests in affaires not American, and along with the European War, the continued depression, the rise of racist, anti-British organisations like the American Bund and Silvershirts and a generalle sense of the need for change and to see Rossevelt out of the White House it was more than enough to secure the Presidency for the isolationistic Republican candidate. The Republican Taft-McNary ticket pulverised Roosevelt and his VP, Wallace – who also was creditted with Communist sympaties. Not only did the Democrates lose very badly in the Presidential Election of 1940, they got hammred in the 1942 Congressional Elections and in ’46 as well.
A byproduct of the European War and Britain’s all to obvious defeat was the increasing diplomatic and political gap between Britain and the United States, beginning with Britain’s openness towards the Empire of Japan, and apparently silent accept of said Empire’s lust for outright conquest. Furthermore the anti-British and pro-German ramblings of Joseph Kennedy did much to fuel the American resentment of the British.
Kennedy would later play the central character in the Ambassador Crisis, where he would be declared persona non grata and basically kicked out of Britain by Anthony Eden, the new British Foreign Minister and political strongman. The Ambassador Crisis would give rise to anti-British feelings in the USA, but also gain much support for the more and more dominant anti-American feeling amongst Britons and the citizens of the Empire. Up to Kennedy’s departure, several anti-US demonstrations in Canada, Britain itself and down under were sure signs that a New Britain was about to emerge from the shadows of defeat.
Militarily, the United States was still caught in something like a state of apathy. The Two-Ocean Navy Bill was defeated in Congress in 1940 – mostly due to increased hostility towards the Roosevelt administration. A limited embargo against the Empire of Japan was, however, passed by a surprisingly narrow majority along with some Armament Bills and thus paved the way for some increases in military spending. Within the US Armed Forces most senior officers were woefully aware that rearmament was needed and did their best with the resources at hand. But even with the slight increases offered even after defeat of Rossevelt - Taft and his VP, McNary, might be insolationistic and disinterested in non-American affaires, but total fools they were not -, it was difficult to prepare the Armed Forces for war.
Especially the recruiting and subsequent training of new naval air personel – for along time a newly built carrier for example lay at Norfolk Naval Yard, but had next to no deck or air crew – suffered gravely as the USAAF’s heavy bomber squadrones sucked in both resources and men. Even the USAAF’s own fighter forces sufferede mightily under this Bombers First-policy. Generally speaking, the Americans had difficulties in even building up strategic reserves of fuel, ammunition and various other supplies needed in case of a prolonged conflict.
Due to the limited resources allocated towards defence, the US Navy concentrated on what they knew worked and the ships already in the pipeline, which basically meant battleships and their escorts, together with quite a few ocean going submarines – the U-boote’s slaughter of the Royal Navy’s capital ships during the European War had impressed the American Admirals. The fact that airpower seemed extremey dangerous, to say the very least, to surface vessels of all kinds were either written off as the ships being to close to land based aircraft – something that would not happen in mid-Pacific or Atlantic or around the American continent – or because the ships were badly armoured and armed. Hence the US warships were being not only upgunned and equipped with more anti-arcraft guns than anything else afloat, but also plastered in thicker and thicker armour.
Still, the first in a series of ever growing heavy bombers saw the light of say in late 1940 - the Boings being dominant both in quantity and quality - and so did a series of long range heavy fighters – for examble the twin boomed and engined Lockheed Tigershark with its impressive and deadly six 12,7mm machine gun and two 20mm cannon armament. The experiances in China only proved to the Americans that lots of armour and superior firepower would bring victory, as the Tigersharks and Bullmoeses seemed nearly impossible to bring down even for the heavy armed Bristol Rex and the Hawker Mordred superfighters.
Furthermore, on a bright november morning the first US-built helicopter took to the air. The Si-41 America from Sikorsky Aero Engineering Corporation might be rather troublesome to fly, but the helicopter would prove to be quite popular within the US Navy and Coast Guard. Later newer and more powerfull helicopters would be introduced, not only in the Navy and Coast Guard, but also in the Army and Army Air Force.
A group of officers, among them the former cavalryman George Patton and general staffer Dwight Eisenhower - spearheaded the use of helicopters as a way of getting the most bang for the bucks, which was something the politicians in Washington could relate to. In spite of fierce resistance from oldguards like MacArthur – having returned to the US from the Phillipines in late 1940 the serve as advisor to President Taft - and many of the senior brass in the War Department, the duo would go on to win the only large manouvers held by the US Army in the early 40’s with their innovative use of helicopters and combined infantry-tank forces and thus gain support for their ideas and doctrines.
Empires of Fire and Flame
Well I won’t back down, no I won’t back down
You can stand me up at the gates of hell
But I won’t back down
Gonna stand my ground, won’t be turned around
And I’ll keep this world from draggin’ me down
Gonna stand my ground and I won’t back down
Hey baby, there ain’t no easy way out
Hey I will stand my ground
And I won’t back down.
Well I know what’s right, I got just one life
In a world that keeps on pushin’ me around
But I’ll stand my ground and I won’t back down
Hey baby there ain’t no easy way out
Hey I will stand my ground
And I won’t back down
No, I won’t back down
- Tom Petty, Won’t Back Down.
From the steamin Mekong delta
To the shores of Tonkin bay
Bombs of yellied gasoline
Is making night as bright as day
And the mogul's hard tank masters
Adore their new grenades
And the D.A.D. find their 9" shells
Are great for border raids
Yeah! I'm superfurious
I've done it again
I reach 50 when I count to 10
Jihad, I'm getting mad
And there's no fuel left
For the pilgrims
Jihad, I'm getting mad
And there's no fuel left
For the pilgrims
- D:A:D, Jihad.
The new understanding between the Empires of Britain and Japan, and the tacit British support had somehow helped to keep the more radical Imperial Japanese Army officers out of power and seriously limited their influence in Tokyo, and even to a certain degree helped keep the ambitious Kwantung Army under some sort of control. Still, the Japanese forces were marching ever forward in China, but seemed quite interested in preserving at least a hint of legalism and human compassion and thus used every occasion to talk about bringing peace to wartorn China and creating an Asian Prosperity Zone. Tokyo even went so far as to guanrantee the sovereignity of Siam. Nonetheless, the Yellow Peril - as it was unflatteringly described in many American newspapers - seemed to spread unchecked across South East Asia in 1940 and ‘41.
Since the Marco Polo Bridge Incident in July, 1937 – some would say as far back as 1931 -, Japan had waged what could only be called a war of extreme aggression in China. Said war had forced the divided chinese warlords into some sort of cooperation, mostly meaning the Communists and the Nationalists of the Kuomintang Party. As the political situation changed in Europe, the Communists and Nationalists soon began to squabble amongst themselves – perhaps each feared the other would recieve the bulk of Germano-Soviet aid. Needless to say this played well with the new image of Japan, and soon Japanese forces pushed even harder into China proper in order to bring peace and prosperity ot the drowntrodden masses.
Anyhow, the Japanese had neither the capability, nor the intention to rule all of China directly. The task alone would demand thousands upon thousands of administrators, offcials, security and military personel. Still, the officers of the Imperial Japanese Army pushed for direct rule over every piece of land they sat their boots on, but were time and time again overruled by the increasingly powerfull Naval fraction, who now had the Emperor’s ear and trust. Because of the domestic political shift, it became Japanese policy to set up friendly, or at least fairly controllable, puppet regimes, who would favour Japanese interests. However, the atrocities of the Imperial Japanese Army – some speculates that senior Army officers delibaretely sought to increase tension to build-up their own powerbase - made the pro-Japanese regimes quite unpopular, so not only did the war against the Communists and the Kuomintang Nationalists drag on, major uprisings occurred frequently. The quelling of said uprisings often strained relations with Britan and Italy. But with the instatement of General Yamashita as supreme commander in China things seemed to go the right way for the Japanese – the more or less overt aid given by the Empires of Britain and Italy did account in no small part for some of the Japanese successes -, not to mention the very public assasination of General Tojo.
Still, Japanese diplomates worked furiously, and more often than not in tandem with British dittos, to insure the nervous Australians, Indians and New Zealanders of their good and non-hostile intentions. These diplomatic endavours were often backed up by some sort of trade agrement or consession. Nothing dampens fear as money…
Also, quite cleverly the Japanese put a stop to battleship construction. The Yamato would be the last battleship to be build in Japan. This was of course not done out of the goodness of their hearts, but as was often seen with the Imperial Japanese Navy out of cold calculation. Yamato’s three sisterships – the Musashi, Shinano and Yubar were converted into carriers. Both the British and its Empire along with the Americans was greatly satisfied with what they to a certain degree saw as Japanese disarmament.
As the war in China dragged on, both American and German volunteers went to serve with the Nationalist Chinese Forces, just as Soviet advisors arrived to aid the Communists. Most of the time it really was volunteers, but often it was military personel on extended leave who got a first hand impression of modern warfare. Something the Americans truly needed at the time. One of the senior Germans, Hermann Ramcke, for example served for six months in China and returned to Germany and Luftwaffe service with numerous new ideas. On the other side, aiding the various Japanese client states, and in some cases event the Imperial Army itself, was British, Italian and some South African voluntees. During late 1940 and early to mid-1941, China was basically seen as the new testing ground for weapons and tactics. One episode that would go on to become quite famous was the Shianghai Incident – covered up and censured at the time – were Italian San Marco Marines clashed with German Legionaires during the assault on the city.
The Italian designed and British perfected Reggiane Re.2000 long range fighter and the Macchi MC.200 interceptor – now named the Bristol Rex and the Hawker Mordred and armed with a combination of 20mm cannons and 12.7mm machine guns and powereed by mighty Rolls Royce engines – saw action around Hongkong, Shianghai and other major ports in China. The planes were most of the time flown by Italian pilots – as the British could spare few -, but often under the command of British officers and serviced by a combination of Japanese and Italian ground crews and British support personel. The new generation of Italo-British fighters would chew up the German Messerschmitts and older American and Soviet planes in respectively Nationalist and Communist service with ease and give especially the Germans back in Berlin quite a few worries.
The thinly veiled cooperation in China between the three Empires would serve to strenghten their strategic partnership on a more personal level as well as prove that especially the British view that Italian and Japanese soldiers were inferior were very wrong indeed. Many RAF and RN officers would return from the Far East with nothing but praise on their lips. After Shianghai quite a few Germans would have gotten a new found respect for their southern neighbours as well.
The British not only brought home with them praise for their not quite allies, but also new ideas and doctrines. While serving out East it had become all too obvious for many British servicemen and especially those from the Royal Navy that naval warfare would in the future evolve around air power and in particular naval aviation. The almost singleminded Japanese focus om naval aviation, carriers and the elite status of their much vaunted Naval Aviators had captivated the senior leadeship of the Royal Navy. The Fleet Air Arm - FAA - had the advantage of not being soiled by the recent defeat and would serve as clean, new heroes for the New British Empire.
The Japanese conquest were fueled by raw materials imported from Britain or from the British Empire. New Japanese ship and aircraft designs appeared as well. Designs that bore a striking resemblance to either British or Italian designs. In the spring of 1941, British and Japanese troops in a joint operation secured the area around Hong Kong and thus proved to the world that the two Empires were, if not dirrectly allied, then at least cooperation on a strategic level. Nor did London utter as much as a “we’re sorry” when Japanese forces landed in the former Dutch colony of East Indies, or Indonesia, and began to establish themselves. It might of course have been because of the Austrailian and New Zealand forces moving north to establish a secure zome in the southernmost isles and West Irian Jaya and adding it to Australia controlled Papua New Guinea as well as British troops securing strategic areas on the southern side of the Straites of Mallacca
Later in mid-1941, the Japanese would finish their conquests in South East Asia by occupying the French colony of Indo-China. After a breif naval encounter were the last major surface elements of the French Fleet were sunk, most French forces surrendered and went into imprisonment – most would not survive. Now Japan turned their full attention north…
August 11th, 2006, 04:35 PM
The Bad Balkans Blues
Hanging by threads of palest silver
I could have stayed that way forever
Bad blood and ghosts wrapped tight around me
Nothing could ever seem to touch me
I lose what I love most
Did you know I was lost until you found me?
A stroke of luck or a gift from god?
The hand of fate or devil’s claws?
From below or saints above?
You came to me
- Garbage, A Stroke of Luck.
Come sail your ships around me
And burn your bridges down
We make a little history, baby
Every time you come around
Come loose your dogs upon me
And let your hair hang down
You are a little mystery to me
Every time you come around
We talk about it all night long
We define our moral ground
But when I crawl into your arms
Everything comes tumbling down
- Nick Cave, The Ship Song.
Nothing happens in a vacuum, especially not a war between Europe’s great powers. While Mussolini, Hitler and Stalin rearmed and involved themselves in the Spanish Civil War and the fight for Finland, life went on in the Balkans, only to be rudely interrupted as a full scale central European war finally erupted on the 1st of September, 1939.
The Versailles Peace Treaty had left many ambitions unfulfilled and they soon surfaced with a vengeance. As Germany, the USSR and the Western Allies were otherwise occupied, the Balkan and Mediterranean countries sat out to satisfy their ambitions, often on behalf of their neighbours, or in some cases internal opposition.
The year before the outbreak of what was to become known as World War 2, the Romanian King, Carol II, had banned the fascisct Iron Guard group, even though they had been stout Royal supporters since Carol II’s return from exile in 1930. Carol II, however, far from the stupid Playboy King he was often portrayed as, skillfully played the various political fractions, mainly the rival Peasant and Liberal parties, against each other to a point where he could choose his own Cabinet and basically ran the country as an absolute monarch. Having succeded doing that, the Iron Guard, or the Legion of the Archangel Michael, had served its purpose and was put down by the Royal Romanian Army, and hundreds of prominent members was arrested, and quite a few executed. This put him somewhat on the bad side of Hitler as the Iron Guard had been rather pro-Germman and extremely anti-Semitic.
That Hitler had not forgotten Carol II’s betreayal was more than obvious when Germany signed the Ribbentrop-Molotov Pact with the USSR on the 23rd of August, 1939, little more than a week before the Panzers tore into Poland. Still, quite anti-German, or more adquately put pro-Western, in outlook Romania allowed the Polish government and gold reserves, as well as some 100,000 soldiers and civilians to flee via its territory.
After the fall of France in June, 1940, and the subsequent defeat of Britain and signing of the Paris Peace Accord later the same year, Romania lost its most important, and basically only, allied, which would prove to have potential terrible consequences for Romania as a secret protocol in the nefarious Ribbentrop-Molotov Pact gave the USSR the right to “reclaim” its old territories, Bessarabia and Bukovina. Furthermore Hungary had an eye on Transylvania, already having taken territory from both the former nations of Czechoslovakia and Poland. As Romania found itself more and more isolated and under diplomatic pressure, Bulgaria too began to look hungrily at Southern Dobruja, the area just south of the Black Sea port of Constanza.
Carol II gambled on the German need for oil and hoped to pacify the Germans by giving them sole access to Romanian oil – never to happen, though, as Italy too was dependent on Romanian oil as well as Yugoslavian raw materials – and skillfully involved Italy in the diplomatic negotiations. With the extremey anti-Communistic Italy and seemingly unstoppable Germany involved in negotioations in Bucarest, Carol II and his Cabinet found it safe to refute all Soviet claims and put Hungarian and Bulgarian claims a side for later – meaning not ever - resolution. Both Hungary and Bulgaria’s territorial ambitious would be more or less satisfied by gobling up Yugoslavian territoty during the dismemberment of the country in the summer of ’41 in happy cooperation with Italy as the latters forces reorchestrated a Blitzkrieg Balkan-style.
The fact that Italy seemed all too cozy with the British, and generally looking out for themselves more than being a good fellow Fascists country like Spain, France and Holland, and apparently having a very good relationship with both Hungary and Bulgaria, made Romania an even more attractive ally for Germany. Generally speaking neither Germany or Britain gave much thought to the situation on the Balkans, as long as the oil flowed and noboby really rocked the boat. That, of course changed, with the German-Soviet war in the summer of 1941.
As Romania refused to back down over Bessarabia and Bukovina, Stalin was caught in a bit of a dilemma, as the Red Army had far from recovered after the catastrophic, but ultimately victorious, war in Finland – at this time it was estimated that some 5 Red Army soldiers were killed each day in Finland. Nonetheless Soviet military formations soon begin to flow into the western and southwestern border regions. In general, the Red Army kept mustering more and more divisions near the German-Soviet border and Romanian-Soviet ditto from circa November, 1940, and for most of the first 6 months of ‘41. In Berlin, the German generals were elated as they saw this as their big chance – the more enemy forces being placed in forward positions, the more would be bagged when the war broke out. A sense of supreme confidence was evident in even the most pessimistic German officer.
On 2nd of December, 1940, Carol II signed a defensive alliance with Germany, Slovakia, Hungary, Denmark, Norway, France and Holland. Soon thereafter a large German Military Mission, in reality an entire army, deployed to Romania.. The Military Mission were sent to train the Royal Romanian Army and to protect the oil fields and refineries. At the same time, Italian advisors flowed into Romania - Mussolini not to be outdone by Hitler – and begun to train the Aeronautica Regala Romana - Romanian Royal Air Force – and the Royal Romanian Navy. By the spring of 1941, there were close to some 400,000 Germans stationed in Romania and some 5,000 Italians. Both Italy and Germany either donated or sold military equipment to Romania. The Aeronautica Regala Romana saw its units being equipped with older Macchis and Messerschmidts – both Italy and Germany were replacing a lot of older equipement - along side their own IARs and, ironically, Hurricanes. The Royal Romanian Army got nearly fully motorized by Italian and German as well as indirect American contributions as Ford had a gigantic plant in Bucarest, Atelierele Ford Bucuresti, that expanded several times during the 40’s. Furthermore the Royal Romanian Army boasted a strength of some 250 tanks and armoured cars, growing to nearly 500 by the summer of 1941 when Unternehmen Friedrich der Grosse kicked off. At the time, the Royal Romanian Army was the best equipped and trained non-German force fighting side by side with the Germans. The attention given to the Romanian Armed Forces forstered thoughts of grandeur among the Romanian senior leadership, where especially Defence Minister, General Antonescu, former head of the Şcoala Superioară de Război – War Academy -, was eager to test his mettle in war.
Hungary, having seen territorial expansion as a reward for a rather pro-German political stance, saw itself caught between either a continued pro-German policy as advocated by the Arrow Cross Party led by Ferenc Szálasi or a more independent policy as advocated by the Prime Minister, Count Paul Teleki. Admiral Nicholas Horthy – who had ruled Hungary as Regent, basically Head of State, since the exile of King Charles IV after the Great War – did his outmost to keep Hungary neutral and while granting Germany military access as well as status as privileged trading partner and signing the defensive military pact, sought closer ties with Mussolini’s Fascist Italy, a state which Hungary had close political, economical and military ties. Both Italy and Hungary were lukewarm supporters of Hitler’s radical racism and tried to ignore the race laws passed in both countries as much as they could. Furthermore Italy supplied Hungary with much of its modern military equipment and was a major trading partner, not to mention more sane, so to say, politically than Germany – Horthy would under no circumstances involve Hungary in a war with the USSR, even though picking on lesser nations was quite acceptable. Basically this was why Hungary did not push for acceptance of its claims on Romanian Transylvania, as is was bound to leave Hungary deep in dept to Germany. Hungarian territorial ambitions would be fulfilled, though, by an unprovoked and Italian led attack on Yugoslavia after Germany had invaded the USSR in mid-41.
Bulgaria too had seen its share of turmoil after the Great War and suffered dearly during the Depression. The unstable environment in Bulgaria led Tsar Boris to establish himself as absolute monarch with the pro-German nationalistic politician, Bogdan Filov as his Premier. Both Agrarian and Socialist (the Communist Party had been outlawd since the 20’s) Parties were forbidden and their members persecuted quite vigoriously. Still, there was lots of social tensions burried not too deep beneath the surface, along with lots and lots of ambitions, and the Tsar and Filov crept ever closer to the Germans, but were not late in giving the Italians an unwanted hand in dismembering Yugoslavia. Eventhough the Tsar and especially Filov – who was educated in Germany – were very pro-German and did all reasonably they could to please the German Führer, they succeded in keeping Bulgaria out of the war between Germany and the USSR – probably mostly out of fear as a pro-Soviet sentiment dominated in the countryside and among the workers in the cities. Bulgarian officers and some 16,000 thousands of “volunteers” served on the Eastern Front under German command, though. In that context it has to be said, that the Red Army fielded a “brigade” of ex-pat Bulgarians under Nikolai Petkov. Apparently the Bulgarian People’s Brigade never saw any front line action. Petkov himself disappeared during the war.
The Mediterranean Medley
Take my love.
Take my land.
Take me where I cannot stand.
I don’t care, I’m still free.
You can’t take the sky from me.
Take me out
to the black.
Tell ‘em I ain’t comin’ back.
Burn the land and boil the sea.
You can’t take the sky from me.
Have no place
I can be
Since I found Serenity.
But you can’t take the sky from me.
- Theme from Firefly.
We have the right to live in peace
You must fight for what you keep
If what you keep holds truth inside
Stand up, defend, or lay down and die
Stand up, defend or lay down and die
Stand up, defend or lay down and die
Stand up, defend or lay down and die
Stand up, defend or lay down and die
- P.O.D., Freedom Fighters.
With trouble brewing and open warfare raging all around them, the otherwise quite stubborn and independent minded Greeks saw it wise to secure some sort of backing from one of the Great Powers. First France, the Britain was seen as suitable partner – or more correctly protector -, but as the German warmachine beat the of said countries into pulp and hammered the second into its most massive defeat since the American Revolution, Mussolini’s Italy seemed more appropriate. The Greek government under the Mussolini-like Metaxas felt the growing German and rather ham-fisted diplomatic pressue on the region,and as with Hungary found it best to seek Italian aid – the lesser of two evils for sure. There was price to pay, however.
The Italo-Greek relationship was actually rather good, both countries being ruled by Strongmen with and all. And eventhough the Italian government wanted nothing more than to expand and increase its influnce in the Aegean Sea - Mussolini was rather keen on establishing naval and air bases on some of the Greek isles there to protect the sea routes to the Italian Dodocanese isles and see the Italian flag hoisted on yet more territory – the tone and mood between to the countries were polite and generally good natured. During the Battle for Britain, the first Italian advisors arrived in Greece, just as the first batch of Italian weapons were sold to the ill-equipped and far from modern Greek Armed Forces – a deal for British Hurricanes had for instance been cancelled due to Britian’s own sudden and desperate need. Several elderly Italian ships and submarines were sold, and in a few cases simply handed over, as well.
At the same time Italian troops occupied the tiny country of Albania with nothing more than the most flimsy of excuses. Apparently, the government og King Zog of Albania had neglected to repay some Italian loans or some such thing – at the time, noone really paid much attention -, and soon the now rather famous and feared Italian Marines backed by paratroops and Bersaglieri units from the elité Celere-divisions landed and swarmed all over the small mountain state. King Zog spend the rest of his life in house arrest in Venezia. After his death, his family were allowed to leave Italy and soon took refuge in Brazil.
Later, after the Paris Peace Accord had been signed and the Italo-British cooperation began to see the light of day, several air and naval bases on the Ionian Islands, plus a larger, mostly logistical base on Crete, were leased to the Regia Aeronauctica and Marina respectively after serious pressure being applied from both London and Rome.
While not too satisfied with the presence of foreign troops on the sacred soil of Mother Greece, the Greeks nonetheless quite happily joined in on the Italian carving-up of Yugoslavia after the German assault on the USSR in the summer of 1941. Greek and Bulgarian troops almost clashed on several occasions during the invasion, and Italian troops had to be used to secure a demilitarized zone between the armies of the two nations for a while. The occupation zones and areas of annexation would only finally be in place in late May, 1942.
With Germany occupied in the USSR, and France consumed with its own problems, real or imagined, Mussolini, allways the gambler, threw the dice and ordered his Legions against Yugoslavia in the summer of ´41. In 1941, the Italian Armed Forces had mostly been re-equipped with modern weaponry and its tactics been polished and updated. The seemingly easy series of German victories had been a real eye opener for Mussolini and the Italian leadership in general, who had initiated a major sweep of the Comando Supremo - Italian High Command - and upper echelons of especially the Regio Esercito – Royal Italian Army -, but also the Regia Marina – ditto Navy. Literally hundreds of senior officers, most actually being generals, suddenly found themselves in defacto retirement in the Colonies. Not only did the new Italian High Command reorganize the Italian divisions, adding a third regiment to the frontline divisions, put they also began to recruit large numbers of NCO’s as in the German army. Led by the resourcefull Marshal Ugo Cavalero, the Comando Supremo and Nuevo Regio Esercito did perform quite well in Yugoslavia - even if the road at times was bumpy and the Italian troops faced adversals. After little more then three months of fighthing, Yugoslavia was no more.
On the 23rd of September, representatives of Yugoslavia's remaining power structure signed an armistice with Italy and its Hungarian, Bulgarian and Greek allies in bombed-out Beograd, thus putting a stop to the fighting that had wrecked the country for some 90 days. More than 60,000 Yugoslavians had died and some 200,000 thousand were taken prisoner. The Italian led coalition had lost some 20,000 men altogether.
After long and hard negotiations, Italy and Germany readjusted their common border, so that most of the former Yugoslsavian region of Slovenia was annexed by Germany and the Italian dominated region known as South Tyrol was seeded to Italy in return.
Seen in retrospect, the hardest duty for the Italian soldiers in the Yugoslavian War was to keep Italy’s allies from initiating further bloodshed and warfare against each other. A problem that only grew with the creation of Croatia and the puppet state of Serbia, which proved extremely unstable to say the very least. In Croatia and Serbia genocidal campaigns soon followed as did severe persecution of political adversaries. Often to a point were Italian troops time and time again had to step in. As the 40’s turned into the 50’s, Serbia slowly collapsed as a state and would in the end play an instrumental role in bringing about the so-called Collapse of Dictatorship.
In Turkey, the Italian and British dealings in the Balkans reinforced Premier Ismet Inönü’s view that Turkey must remain neutral at all costs, eventhough the anti-Soviet element in his cabinet and in Tyrkish politics in general was well-entrenched and quite pronounced. Actually, the Italian involvement in Greece and Germany’s apparently unending succes of arms ensured the pro-German element in Turkey were more prominent, while never dominant, than ever before. Never a nation of gamblers, Turkey steered well clear of getting into a shooting war with the USSR, even as the Germans kept pushing deeper and deeper into the Soviet Union, but did supply strategic raw materials in impressive quatities to Germany during the first years of said war, only to stop as Britain reenters the war in ’44. After the war the former near-allies, Italy and Britain, will use the regional rivalry of Greece and Turkey to keep each other on their toes, so to say, and turn the Eastern Mediterranean and Aegean into a potential warzone for most of the 50’s and early 60’s until the Collapse of Dictatorship.
Meanwhile political instability and popular uprisings played hawock with the former French mandate in Syria and Lebanon. After the defeat at first the hands of the mighty Wehrmacht and then the humiliating defeat at the hands of the much loathed Italians afterwards, France was in no condition to exercise its right to rule in said territories. The deterioating situation led the British to intervene and occupy both Syria and Lebanon in the spring of ´41. In reality, however, it was Commonwealth forces that did most of the hard work as the British themselves had scarely recovered after their own defeat in the Battle of Britain. It is even rumored, that Italian units were used to ensure British success. Something that might hold some truth as the Italian Navy often used Lebanon as a secondary base.
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