“5 Best…” Applied to the History of Warfare

There is always some disagreement with these lists. Or at least I usually disagree about something. (Does that make me disagreeable?) You’re Dead: Meet the 5 Best Bombers, Submarines, and Aircraft Carriers. Even though National Interest doesn’t limit themselves to US weapons systems, I think they miss some things.

Take bombers for example. Some historical examples dating back to WWI, through the B-52, but not the B-2 or the F-117 Nighthawk.

And it wouldn’t be a history lesson, if we didn’t learn something. In this case about battleships, and in particular, the battleship Yamato.

As noted at the outset, Yamato was an imposing craft by any standard. She displaced more than any battleship in history, as much as an early supercarrier, and bore the heaviest armament. Her mammoth 18-inch guns could sling 3,200-lb. projectiles some 25 nautical miles. Armor was over two feet thick in places.

And I also learned something about the subject of bombers; the De Havilland Mosquito was new to me.

Relatively lightly armed and constructed entirely of wood, the Mosquito was quite unlike the rest of the RAF bomber fleet. Barely escaping design committee, the Mosquito was regarded as easy to fly, and featured a pressurized cockpit with a high service ceiling. Most of all, however, the Mosquito was fast. With advanced Merlin engines, a Mosquito could outpace the German Bf109 and most other Axis fighters.

What are some of the other things they missed? Under submarines, they don’t include Kockums Gotland (or any other class) even though they fit the Stirling Air-independent Propulsion system, which makes them potentially quieter than nuclear subs. Under battleships, they don’t include HMS Dreadnought, which set the stage for 3 of the 5 battleships they name. (HMS Victory, from the age of sail, and the Japanese Mikasa, Tōgō Heihachirō’s flagship are the other 2.)

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Last Flight of the Blackbird

The SR-71 last flew on 9 October 1999. It is still the fastest air-breathing manned aircraft ever built.

Maximum speed of Mach 3.3 at 80,000 feet, and a ceiling of 85,000 feet.

There are some great documentaries on The Blackbird, but they are longer than I like to include here. This one is good, and it is only 8 minutes long.

If you have time, and the interest, look up some of the longer documentaries. This plane is an engineering marvel. There is a surprising amount of information available. The engines which (sort of transitioned) from regular turbo jet to ramjet are simply amazing.

I wonder what we can do, or what we are doing, with the technology available today.

Try to Remember – A September 11th Musical Interlude

The Fantasticks was a wildly successful off-Broadway musical. It ran for 42 years. It was forced to interrupt performances due to the September 11th attacks, and when they tried to reopen, in 2002, they couldn’t get past this number. Though in recent years, I think we’ve forgotten about September 11th.

Try to remember the kind of September
When life was slow and oh, so mellow.
Try to remember the kind of September
When grass was green and grain was yellow.
Try to remember the kind of September
When you were a tender and callow fellow.
Try to remember, and if you remember,
Then follow.

This is “Try to Remember” performed by Josh Groban. It was originally written for the musical, The Fantasticks, which opened in 1960.

Battleships: A History Lesson

Courtesy of Sarge from Chant du Départ. That’s Old AF (Air Force) Sarge. You thought “AF” stood for something else, didn’t you. So why is an AF Sarge teaching us about naval history? Because he loves his history, that’s why. Now pay attention… class is about to begin.

Sarge, What Is a Battleship? (Part One) Battleships thru the ages. (And a nice photo of USS Iowa BB-61 underway.)

Battleships, Part Two – The Pre-Dreadnoughts Late 19th Century Mostly.

I’m (Not) Batman An interlude. (Because “that Guinness is not going to drink itself.”) With a video of “Mighty Mo”  (USS Missouri  BB-63) firing her main guns.

The End of an Era (Battleships, Part Three) Early 20th Century thru WWII. (HMS Dreadnought was laid down in 1905, and entered service it 1906. It made every prior battleship obsolete.) With some info on Battlecruisers thrown in.

August 25th – 75th Anniversary of the Liberation of Paris

I hate it when I miss important anniversaries. This one is August 25, 1944. Paris celebrates its liberation from Nazis, 75 years on.

Paris celebrated the American soldiers, French Resistance fighters and others who liberated the City of Light from Nazi occupation exactly 75 years ago on Sunday, unleashing an eruption of kissing, dancing, tears and gratitude.

Firefighters unfurled a huge French flag from the Eiffel Tower, recreating the moment when a French tricolor stitched together from sheets was hoisted atop the monument 75 years ago to replace the swastika flag that had flown for four years.

The White Rose of Stalingrad

Lydia Vladimirovna Litvyak (Лидия Владимировна Литвяк) 18 August 1921 – 1 August 1943. She was known to everyone as Lilya. ‘The White Rose of Stalingrad’ was a female pilot who terrorized the Nazis.

Litvyak was only 20 years old when Hitler launched Operation Barbarossa, the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union. The young girl rushed to the recruiter and tried to join to be a fighter pilot. The recruiters sent her packing. In their minds, she was just a small, young girl.

In truth, she was flying solo at 15 and was an experienced pilot. A biographer estimated she trained more than 45 pilots on her own. She knew she could do this. So instead of giving up, she went to another recruiter and lied about her flying experience, by more than a hundred hours. That did the trick.

She flew a number of missions in an all-women fighter regiment, but was later transferred to a mixed gender regiment over Stalingrad.

The Wiki says she was the first female pilot to shoot down an enemy fighter in combat, and she was the 2nd woman pilot to achieve the title “Ace.”

Back to “We Are the Mighty.” On August 1st, 1943:

“The White Rose of Stalingrad” was last seen being chased by eight Nazi ME-109 fighters on an escort mission south of Moscow. Her body was lost until 1989 when historians discovered the unmarked grave of a female pilot in the Russian village of Dmytrivka.

The next year, Soviet Premier Mikhail Gorbachev awarded Lydia Vladimirovna Litvyak the title “Hero of the Soviet Union,” the USSR’s highest military honor.

Badass of the Week’s story on Litvyak is fairly colorful, and worth a look as well.

For the next year, the White Rose of Stalingrad ignited enemy fuselages up and down the Eastern Front. She was transferred to a Guards Regiment, the elite of the Soviet military, and flew as a Junior Lieutenant and Flight Commander in the recently-established all-female 586th Fighter Air Regiment. She flew bomber escorts, attack missions, and was so ridiculously awesome that she was given a James Bond license to kill at will – she was assigned “Free Hunter” status, meaning that she was free to go balls-out into enemy airspace without orders to do so. Over that year she flew 66 combat missions, sometimes four or five a day, including one attack when she busted through a gauntlet of AA guns and fighters to shoot down an observation balloon that was fucking with the Red Army and helping Nazi artillery range their shells on Russian positions outside Stalingrad. So fuck those guys. She notched twelve solo kills – the most of any woman ever – and had four or five more assisted kills. Basically, she kicked some Fascist ass.

Lilya Litvak was one of only 2 female fight-pilot, aces in history. The other was her wingman Katya Budanova.

This video is 10 minutes, longer than I like for something like this, but interesting enough to be worth your time. It isn’t perfect, but there you go. YouTube will choke on the privacy settings in your browser; use the link when that happens. (You do have privacy cranked up to 11, don’t you?) And no, the video isn’t perfect, but then what it?

A NOTE: Several people have asked me, “Why all this Soviet history?” Well, I love WWII history, and I’ve studied a lot of the American and British involvement, but the Russian side of things I hadn’t studied until just recently. I also love stories about strong women, and given that the Russians were the only country who deployed women in combat in WWII, it seemed natural to look into it.

It is sad really that the some of the same people who will defend studying Lee’s Army of Virginia and what they managed to do during The Civil War will give you grief, if you apply the same standards elsewhere. The Soviet Union was a horrible country, but some of the things its citizens and soldiers did were amazing.

It is also nice to throw some sand on the people who say women have no place in combat, by pointing out the pilots and snipers who did amazing things. History can teach you a lot, if you bother to look.

“Ministry of Truth” Marches on College Campuses

The erasure of history proceeds. And I’m not saying you have to like every monument. But if we remove everything that “offends someone” then there will be nothing left.

Are we surprised that Yale is at the top of the list? Yale’s controversial stone carving remains censored.

In August 2017, Yale University announced its decision to move a controversial stone carving from its library entrance and pledged at the time to make it “available for viewing and studying” elsewhere.

Two years later, the stone carving remains covered up at the entrance to Sterling Memorial Library

And removing evidence of Revolutionary War. (And what came after.) University of Virginia considers removing statue of Revolutionary War officer.

David Swanson is petitioning the public university to remove a nearly 100-year-old statue that depicts an American revolutionary on horseback clashing with Native Americans in combat.

God forbid that anyone should have to reflect on the complex nature of history.

And if you don’t think that this country is starting to look like Nineteen Eighty-four, you aren’t paying attention.