The Sea Lion that couldn’t swim

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H/T Beyond The Band Of Brothers.

Operation Sea Lion was the Nazi Plan to invade England that they Nazi’s could not have been able to pull off.

The Sea Lion that couldn’t swim
After the fall of France, Hitler turned towards Britain. The defiant nation had to be brought to its knees so the invasion of the Soviet Union could commence without the threat of British attacks in Europe. Hitler would have preferred a British surrender to an actual fight, but had to be ready to follow up on his threats in the middle of the second half of 1940. The plans drawn up for the invasion became known as Unternehmen Seelöwe (Operation Sea Lion). A sea lion is a kind of seal, but the name probably also referred to the lions in the English coat of arms and to the very first version of the plan, called “Operation Lion,” which was described as a river crossing along a wide front.
Reichsmarschall Hermann Göring and other officers gazing across the English Channel
Lacking a unified command for the various branches of the military (like SHAEF HQ for the Allies during the planning of Overlord), the Wehrmacht, the Kriegsmarine and the Luftwaffehad unrealistic expectations of one another. The Wehrmacht wanted the Luftwaffe to act as aerial artillery in support of the landings and the Kriegsmarine to conduct a landing on a wide front, dropping two entire Army Groups along the coast of Southeast England from Ramsgate to the Isle of Wight. Meanwhile, the Kriegsmarine assumed that the first wave of troops would be able to wait 8-10 days for heavy weaponry, supplies and reinforcements.  The army wanted to cover the beaches in artificial fog to provide cover; the navy didn’t, as it would have made landing maneuvers difficult. As a “compromise,” the army was given the authority to decide whether fog should be deployed but it was the navy’s job to do so, if it was practicable.
Map of Operation Sea Lion
The Luftwaffe was to simultaneously keep the RAF away from the Channel, provide ground support to landing troops, bomb British warships threatening the invasion fleet, bomb railroads to stop British supplies and attack London to make the population flee and jam the roads. This multitasking job was based on the assumption that the RAF only had 200 planes available for combat against the Luftwaffe’s 750 bombers and 600 fighters. In actual fact, the RAF had 672 planes ready for combat in the area.
Testing a modified Panzer III. Such vehicles were waterproofed and were to be released into deep water so they could roll to shore on their own.
The Kriegsmarine was facing even worse odds. At the time, it had 1 capital ship, 1 cruiser, 10 destroyers and 20-30 submarines in the region, facing the Royal Navy’s local force of 5 capital ships, 10 cruisers and 53 destroyers and countless smaller craft that could wreak havoc on the transports. In order to protect the fleet, the Channel was to be closed by submarines in the west (maneuvering in shallow waters and somehow stopping all the fast-moving British warships that were going to approach) and minefields and 14 torpedo boats in the east (against at least 20 destroyers). The Luftwaffe’s help would have been dubious at best: even if they’d had enough planes, they lacked armor-piercing bombs, sufficient aerial torpedoes and had a terrible success rate against ships during the Dunkirk evacuation (which was an easier job, with stationary targets during the embarkation of troops).
Testing a raft intended for use in Sea Lion
An even greater problem was that the German navy didn’t have transports for the invaders. They scraped together 2,400 river barges from all across Europe for the purpose, two-thirds of which had no engines and had to be towed by tugs. These were bolstered by jerry-rigged rafts and pontoons, many of which had a tendency to sink in harbor. The barges were barely seaworthy, only usable in good weather; even then, they could be swamped and sunk by the wash of a destroyer passing by at high speed. Due to their speed of 2-3 knots, troops inside would have had to stay onboard for 30 hours before disembarking to fight.
River barges intended for use in the invasion
The huge but ridiculously fragile fleet was to approach Britain in columns, then wheel around to sail parallel to the coast. All barges were then to simultaneously turn towards the shore and make land in massive lines. This was to be done at night, coordinated by loud hailers. A single exercise was performed with 50 ships in daylight. One barged capsized while turning, another lost its tow and one overturned when the troops all rushed to one side because another vessel came too close. Half the ships failed to get their troops ashore within an hour of the first landing and several hit the shore sideways, unable to lower their ramps.
German troops rehearsing the invasion
Finally, there was the ground component. Infantry landing with nothing but their small arms and grenades were expected to capture defended port cities and establish beachheads. There were only enough life vests for a single wave of attackers at the time, so soldiers were expected to land, remove their combat packs (which were worn over the vests), take off the vests and don their packs again, all the while under enemy fire. And even if they’d done so, the landing barges were instructed to return home immediately, so they wouldn’t have waited for the equipment.
Soldiers boarding rubber dinghies in preparation of an invasion exercise
Similarly, there were no provisions for taking supplies from the beaches to the front further inland, leaving the task to whoever happened to be there. High-ranking members of the command staff were supposed to stay on the continent during the early stages of the invasion, leaving all the decision-making to junior commanders. On the bright side, the first wave was to bring along 4,000 horses – despite not having any heavy equipment to haul.
German soldiers preparing the unloading of an anti-aircraft halftrack
The sweeping consensus of historians is that Sea Lion never had a chance to succeed and the notion was reinforced by a 1974 British military wargame conducted at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst. In fact, the same sentiment was shared by a good number of its actual planners. Luftwaffe Commander-in-Chief Hermann Göring, Field Marshal Gerd von Rundstedt and Grand Admirals Karl Dönitz and Erich Raeder all believed that the invasion had no chance to succeed. We’ll never for sure but it’s possible that Hitler only intended it as a bluff from the beginning to cow Churchill into peace talks. What is known is that in September 1940, three months after the Battle of Britain began to suppress the RAF and prepare the way for Operation Sea Lion, Hitler postponed the invasion indefinitely.
You can learn more about how good and bad plans can decide a war on our many all-inclusive historical tours to Western EuropeEastern Europe and the Pacific throughout 2018 and 2019.

The 100th Japanese American Battalion

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H/T Beyond The Band Of Brothers.

These brave young men served valiantly inspite of being screwed over by DemocRat Franklin D.Roosevelt.


The only American soldiers who did a Banzai charge.

After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Americans of Japanese ancestry were classified as “enemy aliens,” and more than 110,000 such civilians – two thirds of them born in the US, also called Nisei, Japanese for “second generation” – were moved to internment camps on the West Coast, while Japanese American soldiers were removed from active service.

Hawaii, however, was a special case: more than a third of the local population at the time was of Japanese ancestry, so relocation was unfeasible. When Japanese Americans – most of them ROTC students – were removed from the Hawaii Territorial Guard, they petitioned General Emmons, commander of the US Army in Hawaii, to allow them to continue assisting the war effort in some way. Emmons granted their petition, allowing them to first serve as civilian sappers in the Varsity Victory Volunteers group, while others were transferred to the mainland as a provisional battalion, later designated as the 100th Battalion.

Grenade training for the 100th Battalion
By early 1943, the loyalty of the Volunteers and the training performance of the 100th convinced the US government to re-allow Nisei into the military and to form an all-Japanese American Regiment. The original plans called for 1,500 Hawaiian and 3,000 continental volunteers, but overwhelming Hawaiian response and a disappointing turnout on the mainland, where enthusiasm was understandably diminished by the internment camps, reversed the ratio. The 442nd Infantry Regimental Combat Team was eventually formed with 3,000 men from Hawaii and 800 from elsewhere.
Soldiers from the 100th Battalion escorting German POWs
Over the summer and fall of 1943, the 100th was transported first to Africa in preparation for the invasion of Italy, then to Italy itself, where it saw heavy action in the push north. At Monte Cassino, the 5th Army was trying to capture a strategically located monastery atop a 1,500ft tall hill. In the fighting, which resulted in 50,000 allied casualties, the battalion’s numbers were reduced from 1,300 to 500, earning them the nickname of “Purple Heart Battalion.”
PFC Kiyotaka Uchimura, one of the numerous wounded in the “Purple Heart Battalion”
After Monte Cassino, the 100th fought in the Battle of Anzio and the push to Rome. In June 1944, it was attached to the newly arrived 442 RCT. Due to its exemplary record, the battalion was allowed to keep its old designation, so the unit became the 100th/442nd Regimental Combat Team.
A soldier of the 100th Battalion dug in at Anzio
Between July and October 1944, the RCT’s Antitank Company was detached and assigned to the troops participating in Operation Dragoon, the invasion of southern France. The company landed with gliders and held the ground until reinforcements from the beach landings could reach them.
Nisei soldier from the 522nd Field Artillery, 442nd RCT with a member of the Italian 11th Pack Mule Company in Italy, July 12, 1944. By this point, Italy had already surrendered to the Allies and remaining Italian forces supported the war effort.
The company reunited with the rest of 100th/442nd in the Vosges Mountains along the French-German border, in the Battle for the Lost Battalion. On October 24, 1944 275 American soldiers were cut off 1.2 miles behind enemy lines and surrounded by German forces. The 442nd was sent to their relief but only made slow progress over the next week, hindered by a dug-in enemy, 20ft visibility at night, mud, rain, snow and cold. When further progress seemed impossible, two of the Japanese American companies executed a spirited charge up a steep slope, lobbing grenades at German positions, firing their weapons from the hip and shouting “Banzai!” This final movement broke the German opposition, rescuing over 200 men of the Lost Battalion, although at a cost of 800 casualties.
Snapshot of the battle to rescue the Lost Battalion in the Vosges Forest, October 1944
In the spring of 1945, the Regimental Combat Team was divided again. Its Field Artillery Battalion was sent into Germany, where they supported two dozen other army units constantly moving along the front and liberating 3,000 Jews from one of Dachau’s numerous satellite camps. Meanwhile, the rest of the 442nd returned to Italy to help break the 5-month stalemate along the Gothic Line, Germany’s last defense in the Apennine Mountains. The plan called for the 442nd, along with 92nd Division, to launch a diversionary surprise attack and distract the Germans, allowing the 5th and 8th Armies to cross the Sénia River elsewhere. Sneaking into position at night and waiting in cover for a full day, the attack began in the early morning. In half an hour, the diversion turned into an all-out assault, cracking the Gothic Line on its own.
Two members of the 100th during machine gun training
Over the course of the war, 14,000 men served in the 442nd RCT and 100th Battalion. With 21 Medals of Honor (most of them upgraded from other awards in the year 2000), 9,486 Purple Hearts and numerous other awards, they are the most highly decorated U.S. military unit for their size and length of service. Though temporarily deactivated in 1946, the 100th Battalion, 442nd Infantry still exists today as the only ground combat battalion of the Army Reserve.

It should be noted that while the unit’s motto “Go for Broke” is a widely used term today, it originates from Hawaiian Pidgin English, giving it a special cultural resonance in this context.

You can learn more about the soldiers who fought, bled and died for their country on our many World War II historical tours in 2018 and 2019.

Jimmy Stewart: actor, pilot, general

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H/T Beyond The Band Of Brothers.

Jimmy Stewart was one of many Hollywood stars that put on a uniform in World War II.

James Stewart (1908-1997) is one America’s most acclaimed actors, known for his distinctive drawl and his portrayal of struggling middle-class men. What many fans might not know is that he not only served in World War II but became a colonel (and, after the war, a general).
Jimmy Stewart with his father in front of the family store in Indiana, PA in 1945
Stewart grew up with a love of aviation. When Lindbergh made his famous transatlantic flight in 1927, young Jimmy set up a window display in the family store featuring the Spirit of St. Louis and the Eiffel Tower, constantly updating the plane’s location. He wanted to join the U.S Naval Academy after high school but instead ended up enrolling at Princeton at his father’s insistence. That was where he started acting but his love of planes never passed; he even wrote his architecture thesis on airport design.
Jimmy Stewart at the age of 11
The Great Depression hit hard and limited his chances for a career breakthrough but talent and dedication won out in the end and Jimmy Stewart became a celebrated Hollywood name, winning the Academy Award for Best Actor in 1940 for The Philadelphia Story. His fame and the wealth that came with it allowed him to rekindle his love of flying and he acquired a private pilot certificate and a commercial pilot license. He regularly flew cross-country to visit his parents, navigating by railroad tracks. In 1939 he became one of the founders of Thunderbird Field, a flight training military airfield in Arizona backed by Hollywood investors.
Stewart having his fingerprints taken upon joining the military
Stewart was drafted in 1940 but was found too light for his height. Wanting to serve, he enlisted the help of a professional Hollywood trainer to increase his weight and was accepted into the United States Army Air Corps, becoming the first major American movie star to wear a uniform.
Jimmy Stewart with fellow actor-turned-airman Clark Gable
He was enlisted as a private but was determined to fly. Too old for the Aviation Cadet Training Program, he applied for auxiliary pilot training (normally for glider, liaison and service pilots, it had a more relaxed age limit) and then obtained an unrestricted pilot rating after a year of non-combat duty.
Autographed photo of Stewart preparing for a mission
Being a celebrity, he was first assigned to rallies and the shooting of a recruitment film, then given instructor duties. Afraid of getting trapped in propaganda work and never seeing combat, he appealed to his commander in 1943 and got a position with the 445th Bombardment Group flying B-24 Liberators, becoming commander of the 703rd Squadron three weeks later.
Stewart commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant in January, 1942
Over the course of the war, Stewart flew 20 missions with the 445th and later the 453rd Group as pilot. Even after his promotion to staff officer (who are not obligated to fly) he continued going on missions to inspire the men under him. His roommate at the 445th once said “I always got the feeling that he would never ask you to do something he wouldn’t do himself. Everything that man did seemed to go like clockwork.”
Major Jimmy Stewart talking to a B-24 crew member
James Stewart quickly became a popular and successful leader, known for never leaving the airfield tower until all his men were home. On January 7, 1944, while returning home from a bombing mission to Ludwigshafen, Germany, he noticed that the lead group in the bomber stream was on a wrong course, flying away from the others and towards Luftwaffe airfields in Northern France. When he warned the group leader, the man told him he was wrong and to stay off the radio. Stewart knew that a single group in the area would have practically no chance to survive and two groups together would still be in great peril. He ordered his own group to follow the errant planes into certain danger, adding their gun’s defensive power to theirs.

The inevitable attack by over 60 German fighters claimed eight planes from the lost group, including the lead bomber; but thanks to the added protection of numbers, the rest of the group made it home along with all of Stewart’s aircraft. After the action he was promoted to major. Even after his assignment as executive officer to the 2nd Bomb Wing, he continued flying uncredited missions as a pathfinder, flying ahead of the main force to locate the target and illuminate it with flares.

Nine Yanks and a Jerk, Stewart’s B-24 at the 445th. The crew chief is poking his head through a hole punched by an unexploded flak shell that almost hit Stewart.
Stewart ended the war as a colonel and remained in the reserves, not sure if he’ll be able to return to acting. The war took a great toll on him and he suffered from what today is recognized as PTSD. It is speculated that the raw emotion he displayed in 1946’s It’s a Wonderful Life, which got him an Oscar nomination, was a result of him channeling his wartime trauma through acting.
Stewart in It’s a Wonderful Life
While his post-war acting career launched him into new heights of popular and critical acclaim, Stewart’s service in the Air Force Reserve continued unbroken, though he was emphatic in keeping his military service and his acting success apart. During his active duty periods, he piloted B-36 Peacemakers, B-47 Stratojets and B-52 Stratofortresses and was promoted to brigadier general in 1959.
Brigadier General James Stewart minutes after the conclusion of his last combat mission in 1966
In February, 1966, Stewart made his last combat flight as an observer on a B-52 over Vietnam performing an Arc Light close air support mission. The 13-hour flight almost went off without a hitch but ended in an emergency due to a faulty flap gauge. At first it looked like the brigadier general and most of the crew might have to bail out but the problem was fixed and the plane landed safely. Stewart spent a good amount of time swapping wartime stories with air and maintenance crews.
Photograph of Stewart (center) posing with the crew of the B-52 that carried him on his last mission, dedicated by him to Captain Bob Amos (first on right)
You can learn more about the people who fought for liberty in World War II visit on our various all-inclusive historical tours in 2018 and 2019.


The Nazis’ War on Christmas


H/T History.com.

I learned something new.

Adolf Hitler with a child on a card that reads ‘Deutsche Weihnachten!’, meaning ‘German Christmas!’. (Credit: Culture Club/Getty Images)

During the Christmas season in Germany, you’ll hear plenty of Silent Night and O Tannenbaum—two Christmas carols that originated there. But during the Third Reich, you were more likely to hear a hymn called Exalted Night instead of one about a silent night.

The popular hymn, which dwelled on motherhood, renewal, and holiday fires, seemingly fit right in with the rest of the Christmas songs. But like so much in Nazi Germany, it was a carefully constructed fake, written by a Nazi songwriter as part of an attempt to apply Adolf Hitler’s hateful ideology to Christmas.

During the 1930s and 1940s, the Nazis did their best to transform Germany’s beloved Christmas traditions into Nazi ones. Though Hitler’s attempts to create a national church failed, his party’s attempt to redefine religious celebrations was more successful. To do this, they used ideology and propaganda to put the holiday in line with the national socialists’ anti-Semitic values.

The Nazis’ problem with Christmas was baked into Christmas itself. After all, Jesus was a Jew—and both anti-Semitism and the goal of eradicating Jews and Jewishness were at the very core of Nazi ideology.

This presented a problem when it came to Germany. Not only was the nation devoutly Christian, but it was the place where many Christmas traditions, like Advent calendars, Christmas trees and Christmas markets, were born. The Nazis knew it would be impossible to eradicate Christianity entirely, so they decided to rework it in their own image.

A Hitler Youth and a small girl in front of a Christmas tree , 1938. (Credit: Max Ehlert/ullstein bild via Getty Images)
A Hitler Youth and a small girl in front of a Christmas tree , 1938. (Credit: Max Ehlert/ullstein bild via Getty Images)
At first, notes historian Gerry Bowler, Nazis simply tried to take over Christmas as a party ritual. They inserted Nazi imagery and even Nazi party officials into things like nativity scenes and Christmas parties. They also worked to create positive associations between the Nazis and winter with gigantic welfare drives during the colder months.

The Hitler Youth and the Band of German Girls, the party’s official youth organizations, helped collect coats and money for party members and poor Germans affected by the Great Depression. But as the years went on and Germans continued to celebrate a Christian Christmas, the Nazis’ tactics evolved.

To distract Germans from their time-honored Christian traditions, the Nazis increasingly looked toward Germany’s pagan past. They emphasized the possible role of pagan rituals in modern Christmas traditions. In the Nazis’ idealized, fictitious version of the past, Germanic (Aryan) tribes had racially pure rituals that could be recreated during Nazi times.

Girls of the German Girls League collecting donations for the Winter Relief of the German people, at a Christmas market, in December 1938. (Credit: Berliner Verlag/Archiv/picture-alliance/dpa/AP Images)
Girls of the German Girls League collecting donations for the Winter Relief of the German people, at a Christmas market, in December 1938. (Credit: Berliner Verlag/Archiv/picture-alliance/dpa/AP Images)
Among the most important was the celebration of the winter solstice. The Nazis attempted to move the date of Christmas to the solstice instead and mounted large performances and community bonfires that supposedly drew on pre-Christian rituals. They also tried to redefine St. Nicholas as Wotan, the ancient Germanic deity.

As the years went on, Nazi attempts to take over Christmas intensified. The Nazis rewrote the lyrics of “Silent Night” to remove all attempts to religion or Christ. They distributed Advent calendars for kids filled with propaganda and militaristic imagery. They even tried to rewrite Handel’s Messiah. Mothers were encouraged to bake swastika-shaped cookies. Even the familiar star that topped millions of Christmas trees was replaced by a sunburst that looked less like the Star of David.

Traditional Christmas celebrations became a protest against Nazism. “The apparently banal, everyday decision to sing a particular Christmas carol, or bake a holiday cookie, became either an act of political dissent or an expression of support for national socialism,” writes historian Joe Perry.

As wartime privations and bombings became more and more dire, many Germans stopped caring about Christmas at all. According to Perry, Berliners made a macabre joke during the harsh winters of 194 and 1944: “Think practically—give coffins.”

Despite their attempts to take over Christmas traditions, only one tradition survived the end of the Third Reich: Exalted Night. The song was banned as Nazi propaganda in 1945, but was still sung by some families at least through the 1950s.

Today, it lives on in performances by neo-Nazi and far-right extremists in Germany—a chilling reminder that though the Nazis’ first war on Christmas failed, it could happen again one day.

“Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead!”

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H/T Beyond The Band Of Brothers.

A look at mines used in rivers and the seas.

Naval mines date back to the 14th century when Chinese explosives were used to sink Japanese pirates. The first target-triggered mine (one activated by its victim rather than a timer or a controller) was invented during the American Revolutionary War by the same David Bushnell who also built the Turtle, a hand-propelled wooden submersible. The 19th century saw the use of naval mines in two major conflicts: the Crimean War and the American Civil War, where the Confederacy sank more Union ships with these devices than in surface combat. Mines were still called “torpedoes” at the time and Union Rear Admiral David Farragut’s famous quote uttered at Mobile Bay and cited in the title of this newsletter referred to such unpropelled explosives.
Confederate “torpedo,” i.e. a mine from the American Civil War
Minesweeping at the time focused on snatching or cutting the cable holding the mine. The first minesweepers were British rowboats towing grappling hooks during the Crimean War in the 1850s, but similar attempts were largely absent in the American Civil War. By WWII, minesweepers were trawling a special serrated cable, kept underwater by weights and pulled taut by a float, to snag and sever mine moorings. Freed mines then rose to the surface and were destroyed by rifle fire. This process, in turn, was countered by small anti-sweep mines designed to detonate at and destroy the sweeping cable.
A paravane being lowered into the water at the end of the mine sweeping cable.
Extract from a contemporary sailor’s handbook on paravanes. If the sweeping cable couldn’t cut the cable anchoring the mine, then the mine would eventually slide into the paravane and destroy it, rather than an incomparably more expensive ship.
In both world wars, mines saw heavy use protecting ports, coasts and shipping lines, but also as offensive weapons deployed near enemy harbors and convoy routes. While free-floating drifting mines existed, most were anchored to the sea floor by a heavy weight at the end of a cable. (In fact, drifting mines were banned after WWI, but still saw some use in WWII.) Harbor defense mines were connected by electric cables to a nearby shore facility from where they could be remotely detonated when enemy ships were spotted nearby. The grandest minefield of WWI was the North Sea Mine Barrage stretching from the north of Scotland to Norway, laid by the Allies to prevent German U-boats from escaping the North Sea. Composed of some 70,000 mines, it sank several submarines and damaged ships, but probably cost more than it was worth.
German mines being laid during WWII
Mines at the time had surface protrusions called Hertz horns. When a ship bumped into one of these, it broke a vial containing acid inside. The acid then flowed into a battery generating an electric charge which caused the explosion.
German mines with clearly visible Hertz horns
By the end of the Great War, the British were experimenting with magnetic mines but emphasis quickly shifted to cleaning up existing minefields rather than making better ones. Magnetic mines take advantage of the fact that a ferrous metal object (such as a battleship) moving through the Earth’s magnetic field causes a distortion in the latter. In German mines, this distortion made a metal needle move and close a circuit, triggering the explosion. Utilizing a similar principle, the British laid cable loops on the sea floor: when a submarine passed above, induction created an electric charge in the cable, causing nearby mines to be released.
The WWI British dreadnought HMS Audacious sinking after it was struck by a German mine in 1914
When World II started, the Germans were quick to deploy magnetic mines as well as contact ones. This new type of weapon confused the Allies at first: victim ships showed damage consistent with an explosion occurring at a bit of a distance, rather than right at the hull. Such mines could also be set to detonate only after a certain number of vessels passed by, meaning an area could remain dangerous even after a sweep.
One of the first German magnetic mines recovered by the British
Fortunately for the British, an enemy plane carrying air-deployed magnetic mines jettisoned its load when it came under flak fire. These were recovered, allowing their study and the invention of countermeasures. The first attempts revolved around minesweepers carrying or trawling strong magnets or electromagnets whose field could activate the mines, but the explosions tended to damage the sweeper ship. A small number of Vickers Wellington bombers were also equipped with 2.5 ton electromagnets, allowing them to detonate mines by flying above the water at low altitude. At 35ft above sea level, they could be thrown upwards by the detonation but didn’t suffer damage.
Vickers Wellington bomber carrying a ring-shaped minesweeping electromagnet.
A German Ju-52 doing the same, shortly before being downed by a Typhoon of the RAF. As the war progressed, the Germans adopted the same technique against British magnetic mines.
An even better solution was soon found with the “Double-L sweep.’ Two electric cables of different length were attached to a vessel, each topped with an electrode. Once the cables were electrified, the current leaped from one electrode to the other, going through the water to complete the circuit. This created a strong enough electric charge to detonate mines from a long way away. Minesweepers were built with hulls of wood or non-ferrous metal such as aluminum to prevent them from triggering nearby mines.
The two electric cables being lowered into the water during a Double-L sweep
Another defensive method was found in degaussing (the same process used to wipe videotapes): neutralizing the magnetic signature of a ship’s hull, rendering it invisible to magnetic mines. This could be achieved by fitting a powered copper coil around a ship, but smaller ships couldn’t generate enough power for the coil and copper was also in short supply. Ships without coils could be temporarily degaussed by deperming, passing an electric cable along the ship, giving them protection lasting up to six months.
The USS Enterprise with degaussing coils running along both sides of the hull
Yet another type of mine was acoustic, first deployed in the Thames estuary by Germany in 1940 but later used by the Allies as well. These devices were equipped with a hydrophone to pick up the sounds of a ship’s propellers. Depending on their setting, they could either explode when detecting any ship or could only activate when a large ship passed by.

The British fought this new invention by inventing noise-making devices lowered underwater. After experimenting with sirens and hand grenades, they settled on jackhammers placed inside metal boxes hung from the ship’s prow. This way the noise emanating from it would reach and trigger the mine before the vessel’s own noise did. The Kango brand of jackhammers was chosen for the job and anti-acoustic mine sweeps became known as “Kango sweeps.”

The USS Shelter, an Admirable-class minesweeper and anti-submarine vessel, one of the many ships used for minesweeping duty during and after the war, painted in dazzle camouflage.
Yet another WWII invention was the limpet mine. Rather than deployed in a field, these British explosives were carried by divers and magnetically attached to an enemy ship’s hull, timed to only detonate when the attackers were at a safe distance or the ship moved into a position where its sunken hull would create a navigational hazard. The first limpet mines had an aniseed candy ball inside whose slow melting worked as a timer. A land-based version against tanks was also developed but was foiled by German Zimmerit coating, which prevented it from sticking to the target.
Early limpet mine worn by Cecil Vandepeer Clarke, one of the inventors
Ridged Zimmerit coating on a Panther
Unfortunately, WWII mines still represent a threat today. Between 600,000 and one million of them were deployed and, unlike modern equivalents, they were not designed to automatically deactivate after a certain time. Over the three decades following the war, some 500 minesweepers were damaged or sunk in the attempt to clear the remaining fields and mines still turn up occasionally at beaches or in waters all around the world. The danger is so real that when the Russian submarine Kursk sank in 2000, one of the first theories was a collision with a mine, several of which were known to be in the area.

You can learn more about the war at sea, join us on one of our many historical tours scheduled for 2018 and 2019.

World War II – Attack on Pearl Harbor. Watch Full Documentary in Color

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Watch Full Documentary in Color: World War II – Attack on Pearl Harbor. The attack on Pearl Harbor was a surprise military strike conducted by the Imperial Japanese Navy against the United States naval base at Pearl Harbor, in the United States Territory of Hawaii, on the morning of December 7, 1941 (December 8 in Japan). The attack led to the United States’ entry into World War II.

Pearl Harbor: 16 Days To Die – Three Sailors trapped in the USS West Virginia

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H/T War History OnLine.

I can not imagine the horror of being trapped like that and slowly dying as your oxygen ran out.

The sunken battleship USS West Virginia (BB-48) at Pearl Harbor after her fires were out, possibly on 8 December 1941. USS Tennessee (BB-43) is inboard. A Vought OS2U Kingfisher floatplane (marked "4-O-3") is upside down on West Virginia's main deck. A second OS2U is partially burned out atop the Turret No. 3 catapult. Note the CXAM radar antenna atop West Virginia´s foremast.

The sunken battleship USS West Virginia (BB-48) at Pearl Harbor after her fires were out, possibly on 8 December 1941. USS Tennessee (BB-43) is inboard. A Vought OS2U Kingfisher floatplane (marked “4-O-3”) is upside down on West Virginia’s main deck. A second OS2U is partially burned out atop the Turret No. 3 catapult.


In the aftermath of the attacks on Pearl Harbour during World War Two stories emerged of sailors who were trapped in the sunken battleships, some even survived for weeks.

Those who were trapped underwater banged continuously on the side of the ship so that anyone would hear them and come to their rescue. When the noises were first heard many thought it was just loose wreckage or part of the clean-up operation for the destroyed harbour.

However the day after the attack, crewmen realised that there was an eerie banging noise coming from the foward hull of the USS West Virginia, which had sunk in the harbour.

It didn’t take long for the crew and Marines based at the harbour to realise that there was nothing they could do. They could not get to these trapped sailors in time. Months later rescue and salvage men who raised the USS West Virginia found the bodies of three men who had found an airlock in a storeroom but had eventually run out of air.

They were Ronald Endicott, 18, Clifford Olds, 20, and Louis Costin, 21. Within the storeroom was a calendar and they had crossed off every day that they had been alive – 16 days had been crossed off using a red pencil. The men would have been below deck when the attack happened, so it is unlikely that they knew what was happening.

Those who survived the attack and were crew on the USS West Virginia have remembered the story and retold it quietly as a story of bravery and determination of the young soldiers.

In truth, the US Navy had never told their families how long the three men had survived for, instead telling them that they had been killed in the attack on the harbour. Their brothers and sisters eventually discovered the truth but were so saddened that they did not speak of it.

One of Clifford’s friends and comrades Jack Miller often returned to the harbour and would pray for his friend at the site of the sunken wreck. He says that just the night before the attack they had been drinking beer together, and he had wanted to rescue him desperately in the days after the attack.

However there was no way of any rescue crews getting to them since if they cut a hole in the ship, it would flood it, and if they tried to use a blowtorch it could explode since there was too much oil and gasoline in the water.

Survivors say that no one wanted to go on guard duty anywhere near the USS West Virginia since they would hear the banging of trapped survivors all night long, but with nothing that could be done.

Remembering Pearl Harbor

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December 7,1941, is a date that will live in infamy.”

As we note the 76th anniversary of the bombing, how many people still think about Pearl Harbor?

Not many I know. I have heard the comment that it was so long ago.

I will always remember Pearl Harbor, and our daughter’s will be taught about Pearl Harbor.

They will be taught to honor the memory of the people who lost their lives there and in the war.

Both the Pearl Harbor attack and the attacks on the World Trade Center have been forgotten.

Both attacks were made by fanatical cowards.

Just as then, we are now in a fight for freedom.

Like then, the fanatics must be wiped out by whatever means are necessary.

Let’s take a look back at the attack at Pearl Harbor.

The Japanese aircraft carriers were approximately 270 miles north of the coast of Oahu.

There were two waves of attacking aircraft of 350 planes, starting at 7:53 a.m. and ending at 9:55 a.m., Honolulu time. By 1 p.m. the Japanese aircraft carriers were on their way back to Japan.

The Japanese lost approximately 65 airplanes, five midget submarines, and one large submarine.

For The United States the losses were as follows:

188 airplanes destroyed.

Eight battleships were badly damaged or destroyed, including the USS Arizona.

There were a total of 2,403 military and civilian deaths.

When the USS Arizona sank, it killed 1,170 crew members, including 37 sets of brothers.

We must always remember Pearl Harbor and honor everyone who served in World War II.

We must also honor all of those who paid the ultimate price for our freedom.

My Uncle P.F.C. Frank Walters was one of the many Americans that died for our freedom

Our daughters will know about Pearl Harbor and honoring our veterans.

The U.S.S.Arizona still sheds oil stained tears for her lost crew members and the dead of December 7,1941


The Cutting Edge Heinkel He162 Salamander – Another fascinating German Jet Fighter Concept

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H/T War History OnLine.

The outcome of World War II could have been very different had the Germans be able to introduce the jet fighter earlier in the war.


During WWII Nazi Germany led the world in jet technology. Late in the war, the Germans tried to use their advantage to turn the tide of the conflict in their favor. They launched the Heinkel He162 Salamander – a jet fighter.

It was a desperate attempt to win by rushing innovative technology into combat. For all its importance as one of the first jet aircraft, the Salamander was too little, too late.

Commissioning the Future

The official order for a jet fighter was issued on September 8, 1944. German scientists and engineers had spent years researching jet technology which had been successfully used to attack Britain with V1 and V2 rockets. Trials of jetpacks had also taken place. However, it was the first time the military would be putting the technology into action as part of a plane rather than a missile.

First Flight

After the release of the order for a jet fighter, the Nazi war machine rushed to build one. The Heinkel He162 first flew on December 6, 1944, only 38 days after the factory producing it had received the detailed plans.

German He-162 Volksjäger on public display after the war in Hyde Park, London, England, United Kingdom, 14 September 1945.

The Name of the Program

The name Salamander referred to the whole program to put a jet fighter into the skies. It became associated with the Heinkel He162 as the product of that program.

Designed to Intercept

When the Salamander was commissioned, Germany was in retreat. The Salamander’s main purpose as a fighter was not to take the fight to the enemy but to shoot down Allied bombers pounding Germany.

Wood and Metal Body

The Salamander was made from a mixture of wood and metal. The fuselage was a streamlined design manufactured from a light metal alloy with a plywood nose. The wing, built in a single piece, was made of wood and tipped with metal.

A Modern Cockpit

The cockpit of the Salamander foresaw the design they would follow for jet fighters. It had a rounded, upward hinging canopy and an ejector seat, a new technology developed during the war.

The Hinterbrühl underground production line for the He 162A was captured in April 1945. Photo: Bundesarchiv, Bild 141-2737 / CC-BY-SA 3.0.

No Concern for Maintenance

Maintenance and repair were given little consideration in the design of the Salamander. It was assumed others from the massive assembly lines would replace any jets that became dangerous or unusable.

Engine Position

To save time on design and production, the engine was mounted on top of the plane. It avoided the need to develop the rest of the aircraft around the engine, with its exhaust and intake pipes. However, it caused problems for pilots. The plane was relatively aerodynamic, but it was unstable and therefore difficult to fly and fight with.


The Salamander was equipped with two 20mm cannons. There had been a shift during the war toward cannon in place of machine-guns on fighters, as the explosive shells of cannon could penetrate tougher fuselages and destroy self-sealing fuel tanks.


The maximum speed of the Salamander was 522 miles per hour. For comparison, the Focke-Wulf Fw190, a favorite of German pilots, had a top speed of 426mph, while the Gloster Meteor, the only Allied jet fighter to see action in the war, could reach up to 410mph.

He 162 120230 during post-war trials, USA.

Reaching Heights

The Salamander could fly to 39,500 feet. To reach that altitude, it climbed at up to 4,200 feet per minute.

Adhesive Problems

The adhesive used in the first few Salamanders caused problems. It contained an acid that slowly destroyed the wood it was meant to hold together. As a result, one of the undercarriage doors dropped off during the first flight, and four days later the wing fell apart during a test flight.

Mass Production Measures

Plans were made to mass produce the Salamander. A network of sub-contractors was set up, including furniture makers and woodworkers who had the skills to make the wooden components. Hundreds of factories and thousands of workers prepared for the project.

In the end, reality struck. The German government had aimed to produce 4,000 Salamanders a month, but only 200 were completed. 800 more were part-way through the production process by the time the Allies captured their underground factories.

Young Pilots

Trained and experienced pilots were in increasingly short supply. To make up the shortfall, potential pilots for the Salamander were recruited from the Hitler Youth. They were given flight training in gliders. It was expected they would finish their training by flying the Salamander in conflict.

It was a deeply flawed plan. The unwieldy and fast-moving Salamander provided a challenge for the most experienced fighter pilots. For youths with hardly any training, getting into the cockpit of the hastily designed aircraft was a recipe for disaster.

A captured German Heinkel He 162A-2 on display in Trafalgar Square, London, UK, on 8 May 1945.

Going to Combat Groups

While the Hitler Youth were trained to become pilots, the first completed Salamanders were sent to existing fighter squadrons.

In February 1945, 1/JG1 gave up their Focke-Wulf Fw190s to start flying Salamanders. Many of the pilots were unhappy about it. The Fw190 was one of the best fighter planes of the war. The Salamander was an unwieldy novelty that had barely been properly tested, let alone engaged in combat.

On May 4, a group of three squadrons of jet fighters was created at Leck in Schleswig-Holstein. By then the Nazi empire was nearly at an end. Four days later, the airfield was captured by the Allies.

Evaluation by the RAF

Following the war, the Royal Air Force took 11 Salamanders to Britain to study them. The British had developed their own jet aircraft, but it gave them an opportunity to investigate all options to produce a better jet fighter.

Francis Crosby (2010), The Complete Guide to Fighters & Bombers of the World

During World War II, Thousands of Women Chased Their Own California Dream

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H/T The Smithsonian.

The women are the real life Rosie The Riveters.

For some who moved west for work, this dream was temporary. For others, it lasted a lifetime

Women shipfitters working on board the USS Nereus at the U.S. Navy Yard in Mare Island, circa 1943. (Department of Defense)

For many American families, the Great Depression and Dust Bowl struck like swift punches to the gut. New Deal work relief programs like the Works Progress Administration tossed lifelines into the crushing economic waves, but many young people soon started looking farther west for more stable opportunities.

A powerful vision of the California dream took hold in the late 1930s and early 1940s, featuring steady work, nice housing, sometimes love – all bathed in abundant warm sunshine.

Perhaps most important were the jobs. They attracted people to the Pacific Coast’s new airplane factories and shipyards. The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941 led to an intensified war effort, and more Americans sought ways to demonstrate patriotism while also taking advantage of new employment opportunities. People from economically downtrodden regions began flooding into California en masse – where nearly 10 percent of all federal government expenditures during the war were spent.

Following wartime opportunities west, “Rosie the Riveters” found more than just jobs, though, when they reached the Golden State. And at the war’s conclusion, each had to decide whether her own version of the California dream had been temporary or something more durable.

Moving on to another life

Moving to find work looms large in the historical memory surrounding the Great Depression, and migration continued in the ensuing years. The Second World War led to the largest mass migration within the United States in the nation’s history.

Posters aimed to recruit women to jobs left vacant by drafted men during the war.
Posters aimed to recruit women to jobs left vacant by drafted men during the war. (Office of War Information)

People in rural parts of the country learned about new jobs in different ways. Word of mouth was crucial, as people often chose to travel with a friend or relatives to new jobs in growing cities along the West Coast. Henry Kaiser, whose production company would open seven major shipyards during the war, sent buses around the country recruiting people with the promise of good housing, health care and steady, well-paying work.

Railroad companies, airplane manufacturers and dozens if not hundreds of smaller companies supporting major corporations like Boeing, Douglas and Kaiser all offered similar work opportunities. Eventually the federal government even helped out with child care. Considered against the economic hardships of the Great Depression, the promises often sounded like sweet music.

During an oral history I recorded in 2013 for the Rosie the Riveter/World War II Home Front Oral History project, Oklahoman Doris Whitt remembered seeing an advertising poster for jobs, which sparked her interest in moving to California.

“[T]he way I got in with Douglas Aircraft was I went to the post office, and I saw these posters all over the walls. They were asking people to serve in these different projects that were opening up because the war had started.”

For a kid from the Great Plains, the notion of going to California to help build airplanes seemed like moving to another world. Whitt grew up on a farm without a telephone. Even catching a glimpse of an airplane in the sky was unusual.

Whitt applied and was hired for training almost immediately. She became a “Rosie the Riveter”: one of the estimated seven million American women who joined the labor force during the war. Even the pay Whitt began earning while training in Oklahoma City was more than she had ever made in her life to that point. When she transferred to the West Coast and arrived in Los Angeles, Whitt felt she was living the California dream.

“Oh, it was great. I remember coming through Arizona and seeing all the palm trees, and those were the first I had ever seen. They were way up in the air, and all I could do was look…. Then we got down into Los Angeles, and I was just amazed at the difference…. I just thought, ‘Oh, boy, we’re in Glory Land.’”

image: https://public-media.smithsonianmag.com/filer/2f/68/2f68858b-1608-4952-bda9-1bf94b3874b3/file-20171121-6039-ka6e48.jpg

Workers install fixtures

Workers install fixtures and assemblies to a B-17 tail fuselage at the Douglas Aircraft Company plant in Long Beach. (Alfred T. Palmer, Office of War Information)

Whitt began walking to work every day, to a job at an airplane factory disguised as a canning company. She helped assemble P-38 Lighting aircraft by riveting the fuselage together on the day shift. She later moved to Northern California, working as a welder at a shipyard. When I met her more than 70 years later, she still resided in California.

Did California remain a living dream?

Ultimately, the wartime version of the California dream proved real for some people. The state boomed in the war years. Wartime jobs in the defense industries paid well, profoundly so for those coming from rural poverty. African-Americans, especially those working in extremely poor conditions like sharecropping farmers in the South, moved in large numbers to better their lives.

image: https://public-media.smithsonianmag.com/filer/b8/42/b84206f2-c648-48cf-b350-637992549605/file-20171121-6044-1ff2dwn.jpg

Worker at Vega Aircraft Corporation in Burbank checks electrical assemblies.

Worker at Vega Aircraft Corporation in Burbank checks electrical assemblies. (U.S. Office of War Information)

The Golden State didn’t always deliver on the promise it offered to those who moved there during World War II, though.

Many migrants found housing hard to find. Around shipyards, some people even shared “hot beds.” Workers slept in shifts: When one roommate returned home, another would head in to work, leaving behind a still-warm bed. Unauthorized, or “wildcat,” strikes happened across California in spite of wartime rules intended to prevent such labor actions, suggestive of ongoing labor unrest bubbling over in a new wave of strikes happening after the war.

While many women moving to California stayed in relationships, some marriages came to an end as the divorce rate spiked. Whitt and her husband separated not long after her move to California.

And despite wartime factories’ outstanding productivity with women working in traditionally male jobs, women were mostly pushed out of their jobs at war’s end.

Some Rosies returned to their home states. But many others did stay in California, transitioning from wartime work in defense industries to other occupations. After all, the state still offered more progressive social conditions and a wider range of opportunities for women than could be found in many other parts of the country during the post-war era.

Doris Whitt stayed in California and found a job at a meatpacking company, working there for 14 years. She moved to a small town near the ocean where she lived for decades. The California dream never completely disappeared for people like Whitt, but nothing is quite as magical as those few moments when one first discovers it. In her oral history, she remembered seeing San Francisco for the first time:

“Oh, it was fantastic. Fantastic. I’d never seen anything like it in my life. It was just like going to a whole new country, you know? And the ocean… Oh it was just fantastic.”

The California dream continued to evolve in the postwar era, with each passing generation and each new group of migrants making it into something new.

This article was originally published on The Conversation.

image: https://counter.theconversation.com/content/79823/count.gif

The Conversation
Read more: http://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/during-world-war-ii-thousands-women-chased-their-own-california-dream-180967357/#HuBPU4I64toJ3Giv.99
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