His unit was having serious morale problems due to the ever changing tactics of the high command. At first they were chasing shipping in the Channel, then their attacks had shifted to British airfields, now they were bombing factories and dockyards. Or so the intel officers told them, but Holweck had seen the truth from the air. They were bombing area targets, typically cities. There may have been a factory in the area his unit had set aflame last night for instance, but for the most part they were bombing civilians in their homes.
They now bombed at night because casualties during the day had grown to such a height that they were unsustainable over the long run. Though Herr Goebbels' Ministry of Propaganda claimed that the Royal Air Force was on its last legs, their last daylight mission a few weeks ago had shown that for the lie it was.
As the formation had approached the English coast, the aircraft's navigator - Feldwebel Leo Habicht - had spotted aircraft approaching, English aircraft. They had turned out to be a squadron of Spitfires. Their Bf-109 escorts had peeled away to engage the enemy, keeping them away from the heavily laden bombers.
The Spitfires had the advantage of both altitude and speed, looking aft from his gunner's position, Holweck had seen at least one Bf-109 spinning down out of control, a thick stream of smoke trailing behind. It took time for the escorts to gain the speed and altitude they needed to fight the English aircraft, something which Der Dicke¹ in Berlin had discounted when his fighter commanders had protested the order to provide close escort.
Holweck could see why, if close escort was supposed to improve the bomber crews' morale, what was seeing their escorts cut to ribbons supposed to do?
Oberleutnant Johannes Boden, their pilot, had come on over the intercom, ordering his three crewmen to their gunner's stations. "Looks like the Hurricanes are coming in boys, heads up!"
They never made it to the target, Holweck shuddered as he remembered the screams of Leutnant Scholl. He had been hit by flying debris from the glass nose of the aircraft after one particularly accurate pass by one Hurricane which had bored in nose to nose. Boden had hissed "Scheiße ...," anticipating a head-on collision with the British fighter.
It had been a narrow miss, the Tommie had actually clipped the very top of the vertical stabilizer, tearing away the radio aerial. Holweck had nearly shit himself when the enemy bird had passed over so closely. But he had managed to squeeze off a burst which had crippled the Tommie.
The Tommie had managed to wound Scholl and hit the left engine before Holweck had put a burst into him. That engine had been shot up badly, forcing Boden to drop from the formation and head back to France. There had been some doubt as to their ability to even make the coast. But by the grace of God they had, crash-landing on a fighter base just behind the coastline.
Though they survived, their aircraft was a complete write-off.
Holweck picked up the letter again, most of it was fairly innocuous and should make it past the unit censor, it told Paula almost nothing of what they were going through over England. As he began to finish the letter, Leo Habicht walked in.
"Finish it up Alois, briefing in 15, we're on for England again tonight. My buddy in intel says we're hitting the London dockyards again. What are you doing lad, writing letters to that girl again?"
Holweck blushed, Habicht was from the next village over from his in the Harz Mountains, he knew Paula Braun very well, she lived on a farm between the two villages. She had been very popular. Habicht always referred to her as "that girl," knowing that she was completely out of Holweck's league.
"I'll finish this tomorrow, Leo. Have you heard the news about Leutnant Scholl?"
"Yes, poor bastard is blind in his left eye. The doctor's doubt they can save the right one as well. Oberfeldwebel Jürgens is flying as our bombardier tonight, they say he's good."
"As long as you can find the target Leo."
"Ja, there is that. Maybe we can find our way to Spain instead?"
"Don't even joke about that Leo, the Party has their ears everywhere."
"You worry too much, Junge, now come on, let's go or the Oberleutnant will have our guts for garters!"
Flying Officer Reginald Morley and Assistant Section Leader Janice Worthington were arguing, Morley thought it was a bad idea to even think of getting married when his squadron was about to be posted to North Africa.
"You shouldn't tie yourself down love, you never know what's going to happen, why take the chance of becoming a widow before you're even bloody twenty-one?" Morley desperately wanted Worthington as his wife but he also knew that the odds of him even surviving the war narrowed more and more with each passing day. RAF pilot casualties were appalling, though the switch by the Germans to bombing at night was something of a reprieve for the daylight single-seat pilots.
"Oh, you're going to fight the Italians, Reg. That's their second team, you've survived their best, you'll probably have your own squadron in no time. You'll live through this, I know you will!"
Morley just shook his head, "I wish I had your confidence, Janice."
¹ Literally "The Thick," (German), Reichsmarschall Herman Göring's nickname among the troops. The meaning translates as "the fat man."
That's quite the revetment there for that Junkers, needs must, eh? Hail! You've tracked down your Muse Sarge, congrats........:)ReplyDelete
The Germans were operating from a number of improvised fields after the fall of France.Delete
The Muse was rather relaxed after Lake Anna, almost too relaxed.
Your Muse is awake, that seems to have been enough!Delete
She has awakened, can't wait to see what she has in store.Delete
Maybe hit Muse with some caffeine, eh Sarge. Good resumption.Delete
Sounds terrifying Sarge, especially time after time. Morale would plummet pretty quickly.ReplyDelete
- Toirdhealbheach Beucail
Then our boys went through the same thing, the life of a bomber crew could be nasty, brutish, and short. (Channeling Hobbes ...)Delete
We were also bombed by Italians in 1940. Didn’t end well for them either.ReplyDelete
Yup, they thought they'd pitch in and help, got their noses bloodied they did.Delete
I've never understood the use of an inline engine with the annular radiator... Seems like you negate the advantage of the V12 in cross section by making it look like a Radial to the frontal area.ReplyDelete
Above my paygrade!Delete
One of the hardest qualifications I had to have was shooting the gun, both in the Phantom and the Eagle. The F-4D only had an externally mounted gun pod. While the munitions guys tried hard, getting it boresighted was difficult and one rarely had confidence that the gunsight accurately predicted where the bullets were going. Given that you only had 100 rounds to expend and the gun fired 6000 rounds per minute. (AKA you had 1 second of firing time) You had little time to adjust. The E-model with it's internal gun was better, but because we were part of the Rapid Deployment Force in the Early '80's, we also had to qualify in Air to Air gunnery against the dart (a towed wood and aluminum target. Minimum Range on the Dart was 2000', Maximum effective range was 2500'. The lead computing gun sight was pretty good, not great. Again, you only had 100 rounds, but 1 hit was as good as 100 for qualifying. Suffice it to say, qualifying was difficult and doing so justified buying a round at the bar.ReplyDelete
Then came the Eagle. It's gunsight had a Target Designator Box. When you had a radar lock, it would put a box around the target. This did two things, It showed you were to look for the target at beyond visual range. First sight was always good. In close, it made sure what you were locked on to and what you thought you were locked on to were the same. A lot of dart kills occurred because the radar was locked on to the tow plane and the shooter was WAY closer to the dart than was allowed. But...It's a heckuva lot easier to hit something close.
The other thing the Eagle had with it's gun sight was a TOF indicator. TOF was Time of Flight indicator. Basically. It was a small triangle that would show you where your bullets would be 1 TOF after trigger squeeze. So. One would lock on to the target, pause for a heart beat, let the TOF indicator settle on the target and then squeeze the trigger. Easy Peasy. But it was very highly recommended that once you squeezed and released the trigger, you pull hard on the stick to get out of the way of the debris. PK (probability of Kill) was almost 100%.
All that having been said. I think Sarge's description of the Hurricane attack was right on the money. Well done.
Because of the number of guns mounted in the B-17 and the B-24, German fighter pilots were very reluctant to fly into a zone covered by those guns (not to mention the other bombers and their guns flying in formation on the guy you're attacking). They started making head-on passes because then they had to face fewer guns, also, hits in the nose area of the aircraft always killed/injured bomber crewmen. It was over quickly as well with closing speeds well over 500 to 600 mph, One of the reasons the later versions of the B-17 incorporated a chin turret. Made things a lot harder (and deadlier) for the German pilots.Delete
As for being close to the target, Erich Hartmann recommended waiting until the other guy's aircraft "filled your windshield" before pulling the trigger. Took a lot of balls and debris was always a worry. But Hartmann knew his business, 352 kills (345 Soviet, 7 American).
My recollection of the D's gun pod (SUU-16/A) was that it carried 1200 rounds, but I only saw them, didn't load or fire 'em. Did do a few boresight alignments for the gunsight itself (AN/ASG-22 as I recall), so at least it should have been pointing in the correct direction, whether or not the pod was aligned with that? Your guess would be better than mine.
Nice first-hand account juvat!
I knew guys that would go and sit on the nose gear tires and look at the gun pod to see if it was in line. I tried it a time or two never did figure it out. Course it might have been a zen thing, "The gun and I are One!"Delete
Yeah the Gun Pod carried that many rounds, but there was a round limiter installed and set to 100. This was in the Carter years recall. Money for military was scarce. There were limiters on both the E model and the Eagle also. For the same reason. Also shooting off 1200 /600 rounds (F-4E and F-15) was hard on the gun barrels which were also expensive and difficult to replace. But shooting the gun was....fun! Very Fun!
Ah, so the 100 round limitation was due to Carter. No surprise there.Delete
When I was flying we'd often talk about how we would get 20+ hours of flight time in a month back at the beach, and some of our enemies would only get that in a year if they were lucky. Now though, I think only crews on deployment get much flight time and the folks back at the beach barely stay current. If you only had a way to verify that...hint hintDelete
I can ask. Not sure if it applies to the FRS, Big Time is at 122 right now.Delete
@juvat TNX 4 the 1st hand info -all my buddies (at the time) were flying those things with a large prop mounted 90° to normalDelete
FRS as a production squadron doesn't have the same OPTAR constraints, but he'd probably know what those aviators do get.Delete
Getting married just before shipping out, not something I've ever thought about. I guess it depends on badly you WANT something... She was already wounded in an attack, others were killed. She realizes how short life really is. "Life is short, do it now" is true.ReplyDelete
I guess she could have taken the other view like Morley did, and wanted to wait because of the danger...
I'm a romantic, I hope they get married... because life is short....
You simply must cling to anything which is decent and good, especially in wartime.Delete
Great point Sarge; whether in wartime or in " society's-falling-apart" timeDelete
Life is so short, today will not come again. Great to see the Muse is awake again, thank you.ReplyDelete
More on the way, hopefully you will all like the way the story is unfolding.Delete
Glad to see that your Muse has returned from vacation.ReplyDelete
Sarge, please see "This Day in Aviation" 27 June for Flying Officer James DaviesReplyDelete