Posts Tagged ‘Luftwaffe’

I needed to give a quick shout-out of congratulations to Tampa Bay Rays right-hander Jeremy Hellickson.  Called up from the Rays’ AAA affiliate to spot-start a couple of weeks ago, Jeremy did just more than just give the regular starters a night off…the 23-year-old’s first major-league start was a 7-inning thing of beauty, resulting in his first win.  Immediately optioned back to AAA, he was called up again eight days later, this time to shut down the Detroit Tigers for 7 innings.  And today?…6 innings, a 3rd quality start, and his 3rd win.  He’s now the first Rays pitcher to win his first 3 decisions as a pro.  And Jeremy is from the Des Moines area…it’s a feel-good, local-boy-makes-it story.  Way to go, Jeremy!!

August 15, 1940 later came to be known as “Black Thursday.”  But this important date in the Battle of Britain wasn’t named as such by the British, who had been defending their homeland against Luftwaffe bombers and fighters for weeks on end.

The term “Black Thursday” came from the German side, the side that since the fall of France in June had been preparing to invade England.  And it wasn’t named for the damage the Germans inflicted, but rather for that which they received.

The German plan was a coordinated attack aimed at airfields in the northern part of England and, on the surface, it made good sense.  Send fighters and dive-bombers across the Channel (from the east) to draw the Royal Air Force into the skies, where they would be shot down.  Then follow up with the heavier bombers (from Norway and Denmark to the north) to take out the airfields themselves.  It was nothing less than a full-out attempt to destroy Fighter Command.

German intelligence believed that recent attacks south of London would have drawn off significant forces, leaving the north less protected.  German intelligence was wrong.

But more than that, intelligence badly underestimated the number of airplanes left in the British inventory.  In his book With Wings Like Eagles, Michael Korda writes, “…despite Beppo Schmidt’s optimistic estimate that the British were down to about 200 fighters, Fighter Command in fact began August 15, at 0900 hours, with 672 serviceable fighters, of which 233 were Spitfires and 361 were Hurricanes.  These were not a lot with which to hold off more than 1,000 enemy aircraft, but a lot more than Goring supposed.”

The German planes came in bigger and bigger waves throughout the day.  RAF pilots in the north, jealous of their southern comrades who “got all the action”, were now suddenly presented with an unbelievable sight…the sky was filled with German bombers.  And even more tantalizing?…they were almost completely unescorted.

The RAF lads had a field day, slicing through bomber formations, blasting one heavy after another from the sky.  Most of the bombers simply dropped their bombs in the water and turned tail for home.  Hitting targets from 20,000 feet was their game.  Dodging fighters with no fighter protection at all was suicide.

The RAF flew 974 sorties that long day, losing 30 aircraft.  The Luftwaffe lost 75 aircraft.  Korda continues, “Even not counting the number of German aircraft that arrived home seriously damaged or obliged to crash-land on return, losses among the bombers and the twin-engine escorts were so high – approaching 10 percent, or twice what the RAF Bomber Command would consider an “acceptable” rate of loss – that Luftflotte 5 never again attempted a mass attack in daylight.”

These terrible results, combined with the poor results of Eagle Day (which we’ll cover someday) made it readily apparent that the German “softening up” for Operation Sealion wasn’t going nearly as well as hoped.

Recommended Reading:  With Wings Like Eagles

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Here I am, trapped behind these bars.  If there was any way to escape, I’d do it.  Many of my subordinates did get away, and are probably halfway to Argentina by now.  Hitler was right…those stupid Generals cost us the war and then a bunch of them got away.

My Luftwaffe did everything possible, but Speer’s directives made it impossible for me to put together the air power we needed!  Speer, Speer, SPEER!!!  Always the humble one, so sorry, SO contrite!!  The apple of the court’s eye…he’ll probably be sentenced to live in Carinhall…figures…

I wonder how dear Emmy is doing?

I wonder what’s happened with Carinhall?  Is it still standing?  Ah, those were the good times!  The music, the artwork, the statues, the fancy rugs, those fancy parties…I miss it!  All those Jews that made Carinhall possible…and the place in Berchtesgaden.  I wondered what happened to all of those Jews…I probably know, but then again, I don’t…

Hehehe…I convinced that jury that I wasn’t anti-semitic…well, I almost did.  That letter to Heydrich just before Wannsee was the dagger in my defense.  How was that not destroyed?!?

Why didn’t Bormann just leave me alone?!?  I wasn’t trying to take over.  I thought Hitler was incapacitated, and I was the next in command.  I had the letter from Hitler from way back…’41, maybe ’42.  It was in the safe!  Didn’t we all just want the fighting to end?

Couldn’t we have worked together for just once?!?  Negotiate the peace, then make for the Alps?  If Bormann hadn’t gotten all power-hungry and had me arrested…ME!!!…we probably would all be safely out of harm’s way.  I made Martin Bormann!!  He was a nobody…and he wasn’t captured, so he’s probably living it up south of the equator as well.

Well, they’re going to hang me tomorrow.  I should be shot…actually, they should be shot and I should living it up with Emmy and the little darling someplace not in Europe.  Hehehe…at least I’ll cheat the hangman with my bit of insurance.  Bit…more like a “bite” of insurance.

Oop…wave at the guard and give a half smile.  Yeah buddy, you think I’m gonna swing tomorrow.  You won’t be back for at least 10 minutes.

Well, I guess this worked for Hitler…and Frau Goebbels said she set it aside for the kids.  Just bite and wait, eh?  I suppose I’d rather the last sound I hear be glass breaking than my neck.  Goodbye world, goodbye Emmy, goodbye guard…a little wave even though you can’t see me…goodbye October 15, 1946…

I wonder who’ll get fired when they find me…ok, little pill, one chomp and I’ll be gone…forever…to nothing…here goes…yeow, glass hurts no matter how sma…



huh…I didn’t think I’d still be awake…this is weird.  Least it’s warm.  I wonder wher…what’s th…uh oh…

Recommended Reading:  Angels of Death: Goering’s Luftwaffe

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The fall of France in June of 1940 gave the British a new next-door neighbor.  And without a doubt, the Germans that moved in to the French countryside were most unpleasant.  Within weeks, the Germans were knocking on British doors, but they weren’t asking for tea and crumpets or Yorkshire pudding or even those delicious doughnuts that I love.  Instead, they were trying to shoot RAF fighters from the skies while bombing Britain’s industrial centers and ports, areas like Liverpool and the Port of London.  I imagine even the kindly Mr. Rogers would have been at least slightly perturbed by these “un-neighborly” actions.

Many of the Luftwaffe’s missions were carried out at night, and in 1940, sophisticated systems like GPS and inertial navigation were still years even from the drawing board.  So it was probably inevitable that, at some point, aircraft were going to lose their way and bomb an unintended target.  On August 24th, a handful of German bombers dropped their bombs, not on the port of Thames Haven as was their target, but on London itself.

Would you like to take a flying leap as to who appeared over Berlin the next night?  Residents of Berlin (well, all the residents of Berlin minus the 10 or so killed) were stunned to hear the crump of the anti-aircraft fire and the explosion of RAF bombs.  It was truly a new experience for them.  Residents of the German Chancellery, particularly the Chancellor himself, were incensed.  He ordered the Luftwaffe to attack British air defenses and the population itself in “day and night” attacks.

Those attacks began in earnest on September 7, 1940.  More than 360 bombers and 500 fighter planes flying escort participated in the late-afternoon attack on the Port of London.  While not strictly a civilian target, the residential areas surrounding it were, and they suffered heavily that afternoon, with 400+ killed and more than 1,000 wounded.

The attacks, which came to be known as The Blitz of London, would continue for months, reducing much of London (and many other cities) to rubble.  But they also freed the RAF and its airfields from incessant attack, giving them a chance to regroup.  Hitler’s orders to bomb cities, while incredibly painful for the citizens, was the first of his strategic errors of the war.

Recommended Reading:  The Second World War

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