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Thu Aug 14, 2014 at 03:30 AM PDT

Ten Merlins over England

by peterfallow

Reposted from peterfallow by Otteray Scribe

For the first time in 50 years, two Avro Lancaster WW2 heavy bombers flew information over England yesterday, accompanied by a Spitfire and a Hurricane.

The two Lancasters, the British equivalent of a B17 Super Fortress, are the last airworthy examples in existence.
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The Lancaster is powered by 4 Rolls Royce Merlin Engines, which have a very distinctive  sound, which I wrote about here, and were the planes used in the famous Dambuster bombing raid on the Ruhr dams in 1943 (diary here)

A fuller account of the event can be found on the BBC and at the Daily Mail

Update. for any Brits out there, here is the programme of displays for these planes.  This will be your last ever chance to see two Lancasters together in the air.

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Reposted from Kossack Air Force by Otteray Scribe

   

B-24 Liberator bomber
      If you live in the Ypsilanti Michigan area (between Ann Arbor and Detroit), you might want to get over to the Yankee Air Museum Wednesday night July 2. Author A.J. Baime will be talking about and signing copies of his new book The Arsenal of Democracy: FDR, Ford Motor Company, and Their Epic Quest to Arm an America at War. This talk will be especially interesting because the Yankee Air Museum is going to be moving into the Willow Run Bomber Plant at the heart of the story. (Diary here of the now successful campaign to save a piece of the plant.)

      More below the Orange Omnilepticon.

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Reposted from shortfinals by shortfinals Editor's Note: Inspired by the coverage of No 617 Squadron, RAF (a unit I know well), here is a piece on their 'weapon of choice' at the end of WW2 - the Grand Slam. -- shortfinals

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Reposted from Lib Dem FoP by shortfinals

The Royal Air Force 617 Squadron, known as "The Dambusters", flew their last mission in Afghanistan today performing close air support duties for the Coalition forces. The squadron will return to their base in Britain to be temporarily disbanded. Their Tornado GR4 aircraft will be passed on to other squadrons until they are also phased out.

Their name comes for Operation Chastise in 1943. 617 Squadron was formed from elite flyers for a special mission requiring flying so precise it is difficult to reproduce even today. They were assigned to drop Barnes Wallace's "bouncing bombs" against dams vital to production in the German industrial heartland. Conventional bombs simply did not have enough explosive force to damage these dams. Instead Wallis devised a method of spinning a barrel-shaped bomb which would skip over the surface of the water of the lake behind the dam. When it hit the dam wall, it sank and exploded against the wall. The water around focused the explosion, so magnifying its force. Wallis's original idea of massive "earthquake" bombs would later be used against other heavily reinforced targets.

To achieve this effect the spinning bomb had to be dropped at a precise height, at a precise speed and a precise distance from the dam - in the dark. The planes had to be kept dead level on their final approach as a wing could hit the water if it was not. Altimeters were useless as they did not have the accuracy required. Instead Wallace devised a system of spotlights mounted at the front and back of the place, aimed down so that the two beams came together when at the right height. A similarly elegant solution was found for getting the drop distance accurate. A V shaped sight was used so when, viewed from the bottom of the V, the two ends lined up with features on the dam, the bomb aimer knew to release his load.

Over the night of May 16/17 1943, 19 Lancaster bombers mounted raids on three dams. 8 aircraft were lost, 53 aircrew killed (13 were from the Royal Canadian Air Force and 3 from Australia) and 3 taken prisoner of war. Two dams, the Möhne and Eder dams were breached. The Sorpe dam was damaged. The resulting floods are estimated to have killed 1600 of who over a thousand were (mainly Soviet) prisoners and forced labourers.  Armaments production was affected, especially by the loss of the hydroelectric power but the Germans fairly quickly repaired the damage and by June 27 power output had been restored. This has been seen as a failure of the strategic objectives but recent re-examination now sees this as a vital element in ultimate victory. Workers had to be withdrawn from building the "Atlantic Wall" allowing the invasion the following year to progress. Disinformation schemes like "Operation Mincemeat" had convinced the German High Command that the invasion would be further up the coast near the Straights of Dover (the narrowest point in the Channel) rather than in Normandy.

617 Squadron kept up a tradition of supreme flying skills. Cuts to military spending means delivery of the RAF's replacement for the Tornado GR4, the F-35B Lightning II joint strike fighter has been put back to 2016. The squadron will then be reformed with personnel from both the RAF and Royal Navy.

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Reposted from ypochris by shortfinals Editor's Note: Excellent coverage about a rare WW2 type! -- shortfinals

Coming across an intact WW2 bomber while hiking through the jungle is a unique experience. Finding a large aircraft lying in a gulch on your own property is a sure way to inspire you to discover the history of that plane, and how it ended up still sitting there seventy years after it crashed.

Well, to be honest, I did realize that there was a plane on or near our property. Nick Agorastos, who works with the State Natural Area Reserves program, had shown me a picture which had piqued my interest. He had said the plane was located in Waikaloa gulch, the boundary between our property and State land to the west. So, as we hiked down the mountain on the east side of Waikaloa, trying to find a route to the top of the cliffs fronting the ocean, we were puzzled by the tour helicopters circling to the east of us on each pass. What could they be looking at, over in Punalulu gulch?

A little background may be helpful here. Some years before, I had gathered a group of family and friends to purchase the ahupua'a (a Hawaiian land division, essentially a pie slice of the mountain, running from the mountain top to the sea) of Laupahoehoe 2, on the remote northeast slope of Kohala mountain on the island of Hawai'i. Although the coastal sections of this land, below the 1600 foot high sea cliffs, were well known to us, the four square miles of land above the cliff was unexplored. Virtually impassable from east to west, due to innumerable gulches up to 800 feet deep, we were attempting to find a route from the top of the mountain that threaded its way between the gulches and reached the proper section of the clifftop - the part that was on our land. This was our third attempt to do so. Although on a map the distances appear small, in reality even with a well marked trail the trip from the bottom to the top of the land through the Kohala swamps is an exhausting ten hour hike, and these initial exploratory forays took five to seven days. So we had, at that time, a very poor understanding of the topography of the land, or what was hidden in these upper reaches. In all likelihood, we were the first people to pass through much of this terrain since bird catchers in ancient Hawaiian times.

So, imagine thrashing through this nearly impenetrable, untracked jungle and stumbling across this:

How did THAT wind up in the middle of the jungle? With the help of the Army Air Corps accident report and some contemporary newspaper articles generously provided by aviation historian David Trojan, follow me through the orange time warp and find out!
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Reposted from Otteray Scribe by Otteray Scribe

"You follow the rules for you, not for the enemy. You fight by the rules to keep your humanity. If I ever see or hear of you shooting at a man in a parachute, I will shoot you down myself."
 - Luftwaffe fighter Ace Lt. Gustav Rödel (right), to rookie fighter pilot Franz Stigler before his first combat mission.
 It was December 20, 1943, seventy years ago today.

A rookie American B-17F bomber pilot on his first mission, 2nd Lt. Charlie Brown (left), found himself alone in the skies over Germany, struggling to keep his big four-engine bomber aloft. Only one of the engines was fully functional. The others were either stopped or barely generating power. They had been part of a raid on a German aircraft factory. Of his ten crew members, there were only three who had not been wounded. Brown himself was wounded by shrapnel, and had passed out from hypoxia, regaining consciousness as they got to a lower altitude. The tail gunner, S/Sgt. Hugh Eckenrode, was dead. Charlie Brown's B-17 was riddled with holes from anti-aircraft fire and bullet holes from an attack by German fighters. Blood was smeared on the outside of the big bomber from badly wounded crew members. With all the damage and partial power from the engines, Brown was unable to maintain airspeed and altitude. All the holes and bent sheet metal created tremendous drag.

As his crippled B-17F lost altitude and airspeed, Charlie Brown dropped out of formation, becoming a straggler. He was a sitting duck for any German fighter who might come up after them. His heart sank when he realized his flight path was taking him directly over a Luftwaffe fighter base.

 Standing by his plane on the ground as it was being fueled and serviced, Franz Stigler (right), one of Germany's top aces, saw the B-17F go over. He had already flown combat missions that day, shooting  down two B-17 bombers. One more aerial victory would win him the coveted Knight's Cross, the highest award a Luftwaffe pilot could earn.  He saluted his crew chief, climbed in the Messerschmitt, and took off in pursuit of the low flying B-17.

Within a few moments, the fast fighter closed in on the tail of the B-17, which had the name Ye Olde Pub painted on the nose.

The Luftwaffe ace was horrified by what he saw lumbering through the air ahead of him. He had never seen an airplane in that condition before, and wondered how it managed to continue flying.

Rest of the story over the orange flak burst...
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Reposted from Otteray Scribe by Otteray Scribe

I remember where I was and what I was doing shortly after one o'clock in the afternoon on December 7, 1941. My dad called me in to where he and a couple of his friends were sitting by the huge Stromberg Carlson 350R console radio, its front doors swung open. They were leaning forward, hanging onto every word coming out of the polished walnut cabinet. The breathless announcer was talking so fast he sometimes stumbled over his words. The usual calm and soothing baritone of a professional radio news reporter was replaced by an almost panicked staccato, an octave higher than his voice would have sounded normally. One phrase has stayed stuck in my mind's ear all these years, “They stabbed our boys in the back!”

At first I thought they were talking about Japanese soldiers bayoneting our soldiers and sailors in the back, as I had seen them do in the newsreels of the massacre of Nanking. Even as a kid, I knew war was on the horizon. Six weeks earlier, a Nazi U-boat had sunk the destroyer USS Reuben James as it escorted a convoy of cargo ships carrying food and supplies to England.

Everyone thought that when war did come, it would come from Europe. No one but a few farsighted tacticians like General Billy Mitchell were looking west, and even predicting that an attack would come by air. Mitchell was Court Martialed for his outspoken military and political heresy. When Americans were killed in what was to be the first military engagement of WW-2 with the sinking of the Reuben James, President Roosevelt held back committing troops and sailors to combat despite the provocation. Hitler was counting on that kind of restraint, or he would not have been so bold as to sink an American warship. He knew the US was not prepared to fight a war, since American troop levels had been drawn down to very low numbers, and much of the equipment was either obsolete or obsolescent. The country was recovering from the Great Depression, and needed time to re-arm.

Admiral Yamamoto took Roosevelt's options away from him that Sunday morning. Hitler was said to be furious with his Japanese allies.

Which brings us to the story my cousin Jimmy.

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