Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Things I Should Do and A Thing That I Did...

  1. Learn to cook, I mean really learn.
  2. Get a haircut.
  3. Not get annoyed by 90% of the stuff on Facebook.
  4. Comment more on OPB.1
  5. Practice more on my drum kit.
  6. Get back to work on the book.
  7. Get my substantial derriere back on my exercise bike.
  8. Improve on every other "failing" I have. (Hhmm, why did I put that in quotes?)
  9. Spend more time with the grandkids.
  10. Finally decide to retire, then actually do it.
Actually did #9 yesterday, via Kid's Messenger, which is a very kid friendly thing that koobecaF does. Let me explain.

Late Monday night my phone's Messenger alarm went off, meaning that someone had bothered messaged me via koobecaF Messenger. Grumbling (seriously people, stop sending me videos about this virus thing, I'm so pissed about this mess... well, yes, but I digress), I picked up my phone and there was a message from the youngest granddaughter asking me to connect on Kid's Messenger. Looked legit (and it was) so I said "Yes."

So the thing wants me to download the app and in the way of most modern software, the download claimed that it failed. After "hour glassing" for a minute or two, indicating that it wasn't done yet. (What? Done failing?) Though at least it didn't indicate "100% Complete" for ten minutes. Seriously you bit-whacking weenies2 out there, didn't they teach you anything in school? 100% complete means precisely that, there is no need for an hourglass on the screen, in fact just bail and tell the user that the software is ready to use.

As it indicated that the download failed, and it was nearly midnight, I figured I'd deal with it on the morrow. Which was, if you sit down and calculate it, would be Tuesday, as in yesterday. Off to the Land of Nod3 I went, thinking no more of it. (All the bloody strange dreams I've been having lately wouldn't leave any room for rational thought anyways.)

Tuesday morn arrived (again yesterday as of the date of this post) and I "went to work." Which means I put on pants, wandered down to the Command Center, put in eye drop one of two, fired up the two computers, and once the work laptop was up and running (sadly no email saying I had a task) I headed below decks to make a cuppa joe. Caffeinated beverage in hand, I returned to the Command Center to start my day. (After doing eye drop two of two. It's a glaucoma thing. Sigh...)

Not too far into the "work" day I decided to let my old boss at work know that I was alive and well. So I sent him this...


Yes, he thought it hysterical. But like a good boss, he suggested a minor correction...


You say toe-mah-toe, I say toe-may-toe. Or something.

Anyhoo, where was I? Oh yes, after exchanging pleasantries with the boss via Skype, I went back to "work." (Better Clayton?)

And my cell phone started making some funny ringing/clanging noise. As I sat there looking at my phone like this...

I eventually decided that actually picking up the phone would go far in telling me what the noise was, I did just that. It was the youngest granddaughter contacting me on Kid's Messenger, which apparently is a video kind of thing, like real Skype (we have to turn the cameras off on our work laptops so it's just text), or FaceTime (which The Missus Herself uses from time to time to chat with the grands). Answering my phone, there was Littlest Big Time4 saying "Hi Grampa!"

Enchanted I was, and excited to be able to chat with my four-year-old granddaughter. Soon The Missus Herself joined in, she was greeted with a rather loud "GRANDMA!!!" Yes, Your Humble Scribe was relegated to second fiddle, but that's okay, grandmas are more fun than grandpas, they're just not as good at making weird faces. Well, I am pretty darned good at that. No doubt The Nuke and The WSO would attribute it to my being naturally funny looking. (No, not funny "ha ha," funny strange.)

But what an excellent way to spend an hour here in Sparkling Isolation, chatting with my two granddaughters out in California. Technology, ya gotta love it.

Oh, yes, today is April Fools Day, but this whole post was actually factual. I was going to do some, "I've had enough, I'm quitting this blogging thing of ours...," but I know you wouldn't believe me.

Don't look now but there's a guy limping up to you from behind...


Yes, that was lame.

1 OPB = Other People's Blogs
2 Bit-whacking weenie, professional software engineer. I can call 'em that 'cause I are one.
3 The mythical Land of Nod, where we go to sleep, perchance to dream, er... What I mean to say is the sleepy land, not the Biblical one where Cain was exiled after he slew Abel. In other words, oh never mind, that probably deserves a blog post all it's own.
4 Her older sister will oft go by "Little Big Time." Yes, they've adopted their Daddy's call sign, they even have t-shirts with their callsigns on the back. Sweet.

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Gray Days

View from the Command Center

Aside from the occasional history lesson, pictures of aircraft, tanks, and warships, I (Your Humble Scribe) will, from time to time, subject you, gentle readers, to my musings on things which, for one reason or another, got stuck in my head. You might well imagine what has been going through my brain over the past few weeks.

Quarantine, "corn teen" if you will, which I won't, has been all the rage over the past cuppla weeks. After being sent off home two weeks ago yesterday, it's been a rather humdrum existence. As I have no actual task to work on at the moment, I sit between two computers, work laptop to my right, home desktop to my front. You can just see the top of the laptop screen above. I monitor comms and answer the occasional email. It's pretty exciting (NOT), I can tell you!

The weather has been gray for the most part, with a passing few hours of sunshine here and there, but not that you'd really notice. The view out my window above, is pretty much what I look at, nine hours a day (give or take) during this here exile-in-place.

We are hunkered down, we are self-isolating, we are avoiding our fellow ape lizards like they had the plague. Some of them kinda do, not judging here, just stating a fact. It's nasty in parts of the world right now, come to think of it, it's always nasty in some parts of the world. Sometimes it's the environment (live through a couple of tornadoes and you'll understand), sometimes it's self-inflicted, like if the government sucks. Many of which do, even the better ones have a kind of suckiness to them. A necessary evil I suppose as we ape lizards can't seem to get along in large groups.

The governor of Little Rhody has apparently decided that if you have New York plates on your car, the State Police will say "you ain't getting into Little Rhody." Yup, Gina's gone all Gandalf on people from a state which apparently didn't take this virus stuff seriously. (Why was I tempted to type Staatspolizei rather than State Police? 'Tis the troublemaker in me no doubt.)

I have mixed feelings about that, limitations to individual freedom and all, what's next? Border control checkpoints and "let me see your papers"? I hope not. I am aware that this is a temporary expedient but it makes the freedom-lover in me cringe just a bit.

But hey, ya gotta keep the zombies out, amiright?

That being said, the youngest of the progeny, that would be The WSO, aka LUSH has decreed that Your Humble Scribe and The Missus Herself are to remain confined to quarters for the foreseeable future. As we are, apparently, old farts, the kids are concerned for our health and safety. She's even arranged to have groceries delivered to our front door (sic) so's to lessen the possibility of contamination by going to the store ourselves.

Well, whatever makes her happy. First delivery was today and honestly, I could get used to this pampered, though constrained, existence. I do feel rather like a zoo animal though. (And The Missus Herself has indeed requested that I stop pacing back and forth on the deck glaring at the passersby.)

Just to keep you informed, we're not really in quarantine as -
It’s only Quarantine if it’s in the Quarante province of France. Otherwise it's just Sparkling Isolation.

Now for a nice aircraft video which I swiped from Joe over at Koobecaf -

Love those Grumman cats.

Speaking of cats, one of the feline staff demanded a check of the downstairs bathroom sink -

When's the last time you cleaned this, Hoo-man?

Apparently she found the sink "acceptable."

Another day in paradise...

April showers bring May flowers. Apparently we've had a jump start on both.

Adieu mars, we hardly knew ye.

Be well my friends.

Yes, I know I need a new shade in the Command Center. Low priority right now dontcha know?

Monday, March 30, 2020

Busy, Busy, Busy

Well...It's been a busy week.

Sarge posted another Friday Flyby, (first one in quite a while but we'll take what we can get) and gets 118 comments at last count.  Well done!  Hint...Hint...

Back in my little neck of the woods, my friend the wood pile burner is doing much better.  Had to have some minor skin grafting done on his abdomen and hand, but it was done in an out-patient manner and completed in less than an hour.  Dad says he's doing fine and should only have some minor scarring.  So, that's good news.

On the home front...

Last week, I left you with this.

The framing supplies had been delivered and the framing crew had shown up and started sorting them out.

Tuesday morning their arrival at the site is bright and early, meaning they woke me up.  (Yes, Beans, I no longer get up at 0600 or earlier, one of the bright sides to retirement.)  By the time I get up, get dressed and get my mandatory cup of coffee and wander out to see what's what, I am presented with this picture.

By lunch time, the picture is like this.

And by COB (about 1900).

We walked through it and could now get a pretty good feel for the layout. Unfortunately, we also found our first "uh-oh".

Not having ever worked in the construction industry, I'm no expert, but given that the above view is looking at the hallway through the door from the master bedroom, I think having the bathroom stand pipes there might be an error.

So, we called the foreman.  He said he'd noted that and had ordered the fix to be made.  They will chip out the foundation and move both to the other side of the wall to the left,  otherwise known as the master bathroom.

Ok, feces occurs.  He was honest about the mistake and had a plan to rectify it.  We will be keeping an eye on that though.

Wednesday dawns and we're awoken to the sounds of construction.  Walking out to feed the horses their morning sit down buffet, we're treated to this view.

A little after lunch as I'm headed to my woodshop, I see verticality in the project.

Even more so by the end of the day.

Thursday and Friday, they were no shows, so I'm a little concerned, but Saturday they're back out in full force.

By the end of the day, the project looked like this.

Dang!  That's starting to look like....a home!

So, after Mrs J and I walked up to serve the horses their evening feast, we decided another walk through was in order.  Being the on the ball, forward thinking, plan for anything kind of guy I am, I had brought along a tape measure and my notebook of furniture dimensions so we could get a feel for fit.  (Yes, Beans, Mrs J reminded me to bring them.)

The view from the front door, looking through the living room to the back patio.  Floor to ceiling windows above and to either side of the door.  The kitchen is to the left with the dining room to the left of the patio.  Again large windows there.

Guest house over her shoulder

Mrs J in the entry way with the opening to her office behind and to her left.  She'll be able to surveil the whole of Rancho Juvat.
Yes, she got first dibs.  My "office" will be a spare bedroom.  But, if Mama ain't happy, ain't nobody happy!

My "office", able to surveil the horse barn

Hallway to the master bedroom with floor to ceiling windows there also. Note aforementioned stand pipe in right foreground.

 From the door to the master bedroom.  Bed will go on the wall to the right.

View from Sarge's (and other guests) bedroom.

View from the exit of the master suite across the living room into the kitchen.

View from the kitchen towards the fireplace.  Hallway to the master suite is just to the right of the right brace.

What I liked was the high tech method used to keep track of all the angles and lengths.  I think I can learn a thing or two from them.

Here's hoping the project continues at a similar pace.  We might even be moved in by Christmas.

But I'm not holding my breath.

So Saturday evening, Mrs J invites me to sit with her on the front porch for a glass of wine.  I accept and walk into one of the biggest air to air engagements of modern time.


Sunday, March 29, 2020

Got Him!

German pilot jumps from a Focke Wulf Fw-190
(Screen capture)
Tom in NC asked this question the other day:
Are there any relatively accurate accounts of how many enemy fighters were shot down by our bombers?
The short answer is "No."

Tom provided a link to Quora in which the question was asked:
Did the gunners aboard B-17 bombers in WWII manage to shoot down enemy fighters?
Short answer there is, of course, "Yes."

With hundreds of gunners in a formation firing thousands of rounds at the German fighters attacking, there were bound to be German aircraft lost to the bomber gunners. Whether or not gunners could provide enough accurate information for a debriefer to give a gunner, or even the entire crew, a credit for an aerial victory is another thing altogether.

It's bitter cold, there's a lot going on, it's noisy. You're at your gun position hammering away at someone in another airplane who is doing his best to kill you. Not you personally but the aircraft you're in, along with nine of your mates. There's a lot of adrenaline involved and these are, for the most part, young men, some still in their teens. While the following clip is from a movie (Memphis Belle) the scene is pretty accurate for the speed at which the German aircraft pass through the formation -

For comparison, here's the real deal -

It was nearly impossible to verify if an individual gunner actually shot down an enemy aircraft, even if the target he is shooting at, while he's shooting at it, actually blows up, or immediately bursts into flame, there is no guarantee. After all, there are a lot of other gunners shooting at those guys.

Something I've often wondered about, with all of those bombers in formation, I wonder how many times the gunners from one bomber hit one of their own guys, not their own plane but another aircraft in the formation. Wouldn't surprise me if that happened more often than not!

Statistically, B-17 crews claimed twenty-three enemy fighters shot down per thousand sorties (a sortie is one mission flown by own aircraft). B-24 crews only claimed 11. Note that a claim is not the same as an actual aerial kill. For instance, in that Quora question linked above:
In the infamous “Black Thursday” raid of 14 October 1943, B-17 gunners claimed 288 German fighter aircraft kills whereas in actuality about 40 were shot down.
In the last video, the only sure claim is one in which your gun camera shows the enemy pilot jumping from the aircraft, the aircraft blows up, or the aircraft impacts the ground. Then it still might not be that pilot's kill alone. What if the same sequence shows up on another gun camera in your squadron? Or another squadron at a different base? You could have two "verified" kills of the same aircraft.

War is confusing, it happens very quickly in the air, and you can never quite be sure whether or not you "Got him!"

Recommended Reading:

  • Confirmation and Overclaiming Link
  • Luftwaffe Aerial Victory Claims Link
  • World War II Aerial Victory Credits (USAF) Link
  • Eighth Air Force Combat Losses Link

Saturday, March 28, 2020

Turning the World Off...

Let's go flying...
(Screenshot from the following video)

There are times lately when I just want to walk away from the world. It seems big and nasty and full of assholes. (I know, I'm one of them at times.) When I saw this video over at c w's and Peter Grant's as well, I had to stop and take a deep breath. I started to weep because the footage was just so damned beautiful. Tears of joy dontcha know...

For once the music didn't distract from the video. Often it does.

I went to the home channel of Chasse Embarquée, they also have a Facebook page, after seeing the aforementioned video. Where I watched some more (there are links below). I spent rather a lot of time over there. I chose the one above, as it fit my mood.

Headphones on...

World off...

The way things have been lately, I truly needed that. There is something about being aloft, whether in person or virtually, that just washes the cares of the world away. Go watch more, forget about the world for a while. You need that.


Vive les Pilotes de Chasse Marine Nationale!

A Rafale Marine assigned to squadron “17F” of the French navy lands on the flight deck of
aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77).
(U.S. Navy photo by MC3 Zachary P. Wickline)

More pictures here.
More videos here. There's even a cockpit 360 which is pretty good, here.

Friday, March 27, 2020

The Friday Flyby - Bombing Germany

B-17F formation over Schweinfurt, Germany, 17 August 1943
His name was Ed Solomon, I worked with him, and a number of other World War II veterans, back between high school and the Air Force. Ed had been a waist gunner on a B-17 and had survived the Schweinfurt raid depicted above. Ed didn't remember any German fighters, all he really remembered thirty-odd years after the event, was the amount of flak over the target. When they returned to England -
"I'm not kidding Chris, after we landed and parked the aircraft, we all got out and kissed the ground. I was never so happy to have a mission behind us as I was that day."
What exactly is "flak" some of you may be asking (and it has nothing to do with the crap your boss gives you at work, though it is used that way). Flak is an acronym for the German word, and I hope you're sitting down juvat, for anti-aircraft cannon, Flugabwehrkanone. In other words, anti-aircraft artillery, or AAA as we modern types call it. This stuff -

All those black "puffs" are exploding shells.
This was most commonly fired into the air by this -

8.8 cm Flak 36
And sometimes, this -

12.8 cm Flak mounted on a Flak tower
There were other anti-aircraft guns for lower level, all of smaller caliber firing much more rapidly against fast moving low level aircraft. But for bombers at altitude, the 8.8 cm and 12.8 cm Flak were the most useful.

Of course, there were these chaps as well -

Fw 190 A-3
There were other German fighter aircraft up there, some of them twin-engined, but all of them flown by men whose sole goal was to defend the Reich by shooting down bombers, as many as they could.

Of course the mighty B-17 Flying Fortress wasn't the only daylight bomber employed by the U.S. Army Air Force, there was also the B-24 Liberator -

B-24 Liberators assigned to the 446th Bombardment Group of the 8th Air Force
The American approach was to bomb during the day, using precision bombing techniques, in order to destroy certain elements of the German war industry. Manufacturing plants were a main target, especially those producing ball bearings, and other war material. Over time they came to realize that in order to invade Europe, they needed air superiority. So the Luftwaffe needed to be crippled, if not destroyed outright.

The British had other ideas, they felt that daylight bombing would be too costly and wouldn't have enough of an effect on the Germans, both materially and morale-wise. So they would bomb at night and they would drop their bombs on wide areas of German cities. Their mainstays in RAF Bomber Command were the Lancaster and the Halifax -

Three 44 Squadron Avro Lancaster B.Is in 1942
Handley Page Halifax B.III

The Americans depended on the firepower of their bombers flying in tight formations, defended by multiple .50 caliber machine guns located throughout the aircraft. The British, on the other hand, as they were flying at night, sent their bombers to their targets in a stream of aircraft. This was intended to prevent mid-air collisions, though this still occurred.

It's worth noting that the number of defensive machine guns aboard the B-17s and B-24s had an effect on the amount of bombs those aircraft could carry. While a B-17 could carry a bit over two tons of bombs on long range missions (the B-24 could carry a bit more), the Lancaster could carry as many as seven tons of bombs! (The Halifax slightly less.)

While the British still had flak to deal with, the fighter attacks weren't as intense as those which the Americans experienced. But they were, perhaps, rather a bit more terrifying as they could not see the German night fighters coming after them. Most of which were equipped with radar and were ground controlled to the intercept by an extensive support organization, equipped with very sophisticated radars.

Some of the enemy night fighter opposition -

Junkers Ju-88
Messerschmitt Me-110
Heinkel He-219
Note the antler-like protuberances on the nose of those aircraft, those are the radar antennae. Yes, they weren't a boon to the pilot who had to deal with the weight and the drag of those things. But they helped him find his target!

The British were right about the heavy losses suffered in daylight raids, not even the formidable armament of the B-17s and B-24s deterred the Luftwaffe fighter pilots, bomber losses mounted until this bird came along -

North American P-51D-5-NA Mustang #44-13926 from the 375th Fighter Squadron.

Once the Fortresses and Liberators could be escorted all the way to their targets by the P-51, the Luftwaffe was doomed. They had to come up to defend their homeland, and they lost heavily. The effectiveness of the bombing campaign can perhaps be measured by the fact that during the morning of 6 June 1944, as the Allies were coming ashore, hundreds of friendly aircraft were overhead.

Two, count them, two Luftwaffe fighters were up over the beaches that morning and had precisely no effect on the landings. Not only had air superiority been achieved, the Allies had achieved air supremacy.

Right now I'm reading Big Week by James Holland, a very good book on the bombing campaign in Word War II. I can't imagine what those crews went through, both during the day and at night. Harrowing to say the least.

One of the very best fictional accounts I have ever read of the RAF's night bombing campaign is Bomber by Len Deighton. I can't recommend this one enough. Well written, you feel as if you're in the aircraft yourself. The bomber and the night fighter. (Yes, I provided Amazon links for both books, no, I don't own stock in Amazon. No, I don't wish I did. I don't do the stock market, don't believe in gambling of any form.)

One thing this enforced period of hunkering down at the manse has given me is that I have been finding time to read again. That has been rare over the past year or so. So I have been doing just that, I need to refresh my memories of those who went before. Brave men, on both sides.

I really need to read up on the bombing campaign against Japan. My knowledge there is extremely lacking!

Thursday, March 26, 2020

Twenty-Two Years Later...

Destroyed PzKfw IV
So the opening photo, a juvat favorite, a tank which someone has blown to pieces. No doubt you're wondering where that photo was taken, and when. Unless you peeked at the source, you might think that the photo may be from Italy, during the horrible slog up the Italian peninsula from 1943 to 1945. (Because of the mountains in the background, I'd think Italy.)

But the Germans did do some mountain fighting in the Soviet Union during that mammoth slugfest from 1941 to 1945. Their advance to the Caucasus springs to mind. So that might possibly be a picture from southern Russia, neh?

But it isn't.

A little background before I get any further along - whilst hunkering down at Chez Sarge during this virus-thing, I've been standing by my work laptop, awaiting the call to action. (Which I don't think is coming anytime soon, I hope I'm wrong.) During this period, while reading the occasional email from work, I've been up on my home computer (which is conveniently next to the laptop table). I've been doing many things to keep from going batshit crazy. (Yes, I see what I did there.)

A friend of mine has written a book, a very good book I might add, and asked me to review it, make suggestions, comments, what have you, which I've been doing. (As you might gather, it's an unpublished work, I hope he gets it published, I'd actually buy a copy, even though I already have the draft, it's that good.) But I can't spend the entire day reading. So I watch videos, music and tank videos. (No Stefan, not those tank videos.) Okay, the occasional History Guy video as well.

Some of my favorite videos are done by this fellow -

Nicholas Moran (left) and Z (right).
Also known as the Chieftain for his series of tank videos Inside the Chieftain's Hatch (said channel being here at World of Tanks North America). I met the good Major at the American Heritage Museum in Hudson, Massachusetts, a place I told you about here.

For those of you who don't know it, Major Moran works for as an advisor for their World of Tanks online gaming empire. As he's a currently serving armor officer in the Nevada Army National Guard, he's the right man for the job.

Anyhoo, before I drone on much further, at the end of his series on the Jagdpanzer IV, he made mention of that online game and again stressed the fact that it was free to try out. Which indeed it is. How do I know? Well, I signed up Tuesday evening and spent quite a bit of time over there learning the ropes. I haven't gone head-to-head with my fellow humans just yet, I will be doing that soon.

Is it fun and awesome? You betcha. Otherwise, I wouldn't be doing it.

All that being the preface of what seems to be turning into a somewhat lengthy tale, I was watching another Inside the Chieftain's Hatch series on the Panzerkampfwagen (PzKfw) IV, an example of which lies destroyed in that opening photo, when he mentioned something which made me sit up and say "Huh?" At the end of the third and final episode, Major Moran mentioned that the last PzKfw IV destroyed in battle was of a tank operated by the Syrian Army in the Golan Heights, in June of 1967.

Yup, twenty-two years after the Nazis surrendered.

Of even more interest was the fact that that former German tank had been knocked out by an Israeli Sherman. While I did remember at the time (yes, I was alive, I was fourteen) that the Syrians had a number of former German armored vehicles in their army and that the Israelis had a number of American Shermans in their army (modified to their own excellent standards), I never put two and two together and wondered if the two had met in battle.

Well, they had.

Which was, to me anyway, a very interesting story.

A note on the video, something which a lot of folks do is use the phrase "German panzer tanks." While technically it's not as bad as saying "ATM machine" or "hot water heater," it's close. The generic German word for a tank is "Panzer," which literally means "armor," so saying "panzer tank" could be excused as meaning "armored tank," it still kind of grates, even to this rusty old, non-native semi-German speaker.

Aber ich schweife ab...

No, that's it I think, I've got to get this to the publisher and hire a new editor after Angus McThag noticed in yesterday's post that I had captioned a photo of the Wiesel with it being next to a "real tank," a vehicle which is most emphatically not a tank, real or otherwise. In actuality it's a self-propelled artillery vehicle, armored yes, a tank no. Does it look like a tank a little when viewed by someone focusing on the vehicle in the foreground? Yes, it does. Should I have looked more closely at the photo before captioning it? Yes, I should have. Here's the vehicle in question -

German soldiers with 4th Battery, 131st Artillery Battalion carry out a fire mission with a PzH 2000

FWIW, the PzH in that designation stands for Panzerhaubitze, literally "armored howitzer." I know you wanted to know. I mean you come here for the pictures and stay for the German, right? (Well, except for maybe Paweł, I know how the Poles feel about the Niemcy.) Also, as a final note, that PzH 2000 is actually bigger than a tank.

Further reading:
  • Last Sherman vs Panzer Battle
  • The Last Battle
  • Panzers in the Golan Heights
  • How Israel Won Many Wars With Outdated World War II Sherman Tanks
  • More photos of that wrecked PzKfw IV (Really those are more for juvat...)