Your WWII History Lesson for the Day

I know, we just had a history lesson yesterday. You’ll survive. You might actually learn something. (It will only hurt for a minute!) The Friday Flyby – Bombing Germany.

Sarge has some info on the bombing campaigns in WWII to inflict punishment on Germany.

The B-17F, the B-24 Liberator, the Lancaster, Handley Page Halifax B.III. And info on the German Flak guns, and German fighters like the Messerschmitt Bf 109, and the venerated P-51 Mustang, that could provide cover for the bombers all the way to Germany and back.

Click thru. Sarge always has good info.

As for yesterday’s history lesson, it was on the Soviet side of WWII.

Marina Raskova – The Russian Amelia Earhart

Marina Mikhaylovna Raskova (Мари́на Миха́йловна Раско́ва): 28 March 1912 – 4 January 1943. She was the first female navigator in the Soviet Air Force in 1933, and the first woman teacher the following year. The Female Soldier: Marina Raskova.

She became famous – at least in the Soviet Union – for setting a number of long-distance records.

This included the famous ‘Flight of the Rodina’ covering 6000km from Moscow to Komsomolsk, which she conducted with two other female pilots, Polina Osipenko and Valentina Grizodubova. However the flight ran into difficulties at the end of its 26 and a half hour journey when poor visibility hampered the landing. As the navigator’s pit was vulnerable in crash landings, Raskova bailed out with a parachute while the two pilots completed the landing. She survived with no water and almost no food for 10 days before she found her way to landing site and reunited with her team. All 3 women were decorated with the ‘Hero of the Soviet Union’ award, the first women ever to receive it.

At the outbreak of WWII, the Soviets were unprepared, and a lot of men were killed and material was destroyed in the early days.

Raskova proposed the creation of women’s aviation units and used her celebrity status to propose the idea directly to the Soviet leader Joseph Stalin. Following a speech by Raskova in September 1941 calling for women pilots to be welcomed into the war, Stalin ordered the creation of 3 new air regiments, the 586th Fighter Aviation Regiment, the 125th Guards Bomber Aviation Regiment, and the 46th Taman Guards Night Bomber Aviation Regiment, dubbed The Night Witches [Z-Deb’s Note: The 46th Taman Guards were origianally the 588th Night Bomber Regiment. “Guard status” was an honor they got later, after completing lots of missions.]

Raskova herself commanded the 125th Bomber Regiment. That regiment went on to fly 134 missions, dropping 980 tons of bombs on the German Army.

She died January 4th, 1943 making a forced landing.

The Winter War: November 30, 1939 to March 13, 1940

I missed a somewhat important anniversary on Friday. History.com asks What was the Winter War?

Finland had been part of the Russian Empire, but was not part of the USSR. In 1939, Stalin decided to change that. It didn’t go well.

The Civil Guard was called up, and it included a hunter by the name of Simo Häyhä. He would become history’s deadliest sniper, with over 500 kills. We will have more on him at a later date.

Technically it was a victory for the USSR. Finland gave up 11 percent of its territory in the treaty ending the war.

For the Soviets, meanwhile, victory came at a heavy cost. During just three months of fighting, their forces suffered over 300,000 casualties compared to around 65,000 for the Finns.

The performance of the Soviet Army may have also convinced the Germans that their planned invasion of Russia would be easy.

The U-boat War in WWI and WWII

OldAFSarge has a your history lesson for the day. Chant du Départ: Sea Wolves.

In both World Wars the enemy was anything but incompetent. Especially those sailors who served in Germany’s Ubootwaffe1. In both wars they nearly brought Britain to her knees. It was, to paraphrase the Duke of Wellington, a damned near run thing.2

When you mention “U-Boats3” most people think of World War II, while some might remember that the sinking of RMS Lusitania was a proximate cause of the United States entering World War I. (Though not really, Lusitania went down in May of 1915, the U.S. entered the war in April of 1917. Though the sinking did shift public opinion in the U.S. against the Germans 4.) Of Germany’s top five submarine captains (based on tonnage sunk), four are from World War I.

Go read the whole thing, but be warned; it is not short. Sarge is very thorough with his naval history. Which I always found a bit odd, since the “AF” stands for “Air Force,” and not something else.

The Night of Black Snow: The Firebombing of Tokyo, 9 March 1945

Operation Meetinghouse: March 9th and 10th, 1945. Operation Meetinghouse: The 1945 firebombing of Tokyo was the single deadliest air raid in history.

When we think of how World War Two came to an end, we recall the atomic bombs dropped on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. However, before the situation escalated to the point of the Allies commissioning a nuclear weapon, some devastating air raids were green-lighted.

An air-raid conducted on the night of March 9-10, 1945, is regarded as the single deadliest air raid in the history of the war. It damaged a greater area and led to more deaths than either of the two nuclear bombings. Reportedly, over 1 million people had their homes destroyed during the Tokyo bombing that night, and the estimated number of civilian deaths is recorded as 100,000 people. Subsequently, the Japanese would dub this event the Night of the Black Snow.

YB-29 SuperfortressThe introduction of the B-29 Superfortress bomber in 1944 meant that bombing raids on Japan could become a more regular occurrence. First from China, then from Mariana Islands. Precision bombing wasn’t working however, so subtlety was abandoned.

When command of the 20th Air Force came to General Curtis LeMay in January 1945, he immediately set about planning a new tactic. His first change was to switch from general purpose to incendiary bombs and fragmentation bombs. These were used from high altitude in February on Kobe and Tokyo. The next step, boosted by the fact that Japanese anti-aircraft batteries had proved less effective at the low altitude of 5,000 feet to 9,000 feet, was to launch a low-altitude incendiary attack.

Bombs carrying jelled gasoline, and napalm ignited a huge flaming “X” in the city. Fire services were destroyed within 2 hours. 16 square miles were incinerated. 100,000 people died and a million were made homeless.

Tokyo was only the first city to be bombed in this fashion. The Fire Raids on Japan.

On March 12, Nagoya was hit. About 1 square mile of the city burned. Osaka was hit on the 13th. Kobe was targeted on the 16th.

In the space of ten days, the Americans had dropped nearly 9,500 tons of incendiaries on Japanese cities and destroyed 29 square miles of what was considered to be important industrial land.

Given what the Japanese were doing to POWs, there was little to say this wasn’t justified. Shot down pilots were tortured, killed with boiling water, and subjected to medical “experiments” that even the Nazis hadn’t tried. I leave you to find references. I won’t inflict those nightmares on you.

Germany surrendered on the 7th of May 1945, but the Japanese still refused to surrender. And so in August, we had the bombing of Hiroshima on the 6th, and three days later there was the bombing of Nagasaki. The Japanese surrendered six days after Nagasaki.

The Polish Navy in Exile During WWII

ORP Błyskawica A history lesson from Old AF Sarge at Chant du Départ: Storm, Lightning and Thunder. Plus an Eagle. You might learn something. (It will only hurt for a minute.)

The Polish destroyer, ORP Błyskawica. (The photo is by Piotr Parda – występujący czasami pod pseudonimem Topory. Click for more info.)

Note that “ORP” stands for Okręt Rzeczypospolitej Polskiej, “Warship of the Republic of Poland.” So ORP is analogous to “USS” and “HMS.”

Błyskawica is Polish for “Lightning.” ORP Błyskawica is currently a museum ship in Poland.

Her sister ship ORP Grom (Thunder) was lost.

ORP Grom was lost in the Norwegian campaign after being hit by two bombs from a German Heinkel He-111 bomber.

A third ship (different class) was named “Gale,” ORP Wicher was first ship sunk during WWII. ORP Burza (“Storm”), a Wicher-class ship, was evacuated to Great Britain and with ORP Błyskawica survived the war.

The decision was made to evacuate the destroyers of the Polish navy at the start of the war, because it was clear that they would be either captured or destroyed. It was styled Operation Peking or the Peking Plan.

Anyway Sarge has more info on the service of these ships in the effort to defeat the Nazis. The Polish government in Exile, which existed in London until 1990 (after Lech Wałęsa became President, the government in exile was dissolved.)

As for the title of this post, The Polish Home Army was based in Great Britain during the war. I’m not sure how the Polish naval ships serving with the allies during WWII styled themselves.

Obama and H1N1 versus Trump and COVID-19

You mean the media is holding Trump to a different standard from what they used when Obama was in office? Say it ain’t so! Fact-Check: Obama Waited Until ‘Millions’ Infected and 1000 Dead in U.S. Before Declaring H1N1 Emergency. But seriously, is anyone shocked that there is media bias and a double standard?

Surely, St. Barack of Obama would have dealt with this horrible pandemic better than Orange Man Bad, right? No-Drama-Obama had this whole thing under control, of course!

Or maybe not.

Now, let’s go to the Wayback Machine. In April of 2009, the H1N1 became a pandemic.

But it wasn’t until six months later, October, that then-President Obama declared a public health emergency on what was already a pandemic. By that time, the disease had infected millions of Americans and more than 1,000 people had died in the U.S. [emphasis in the original.]

Anyway, go read the entire thing.

February 26, 1993: The Attack on the World Trade Center

This is the attack on the World Trade Center that is never remembered. World Trade Center is bombed.

At 12:18 p.m., a terrorist bomb explodes in a parking garage of the World Trade Center in New York City, leaving a crater 60 feet wide and causing the collapse of several steel-reinforced concrete floors in the vicinity of the blast.

Although the terrorist bomb failed to critically damage the main structure of the skyscrapers, six people were killed and more than 1,000 were injured. The World Trade Center itself suffered more than $500 million in damage.

Safety concerns were raised in 1975. But convenience and cost won out over security. (I’m shocked!)

Meanwhile, authorities uncovered a related plot in which followers of Sheikh Abdel Rahman planned to blow up the George Washington Bridge, the United Nations headquarters and other New York City landmarks. In that case, the sheikh and nine co-defendants were found guilty of seditious conspiracy and other terrorism-related charges.

There was a fountain commemorating the 1993 attack. It was obliterated in the 2001 attack.

The Black Militia in Philadelphia

Your history lesson for the week. You might learn something. (It will only hurt for a minute!) The Black Church Tradition of Arms, W.E.B. DuBois, and Bethel Church of Philadelphia.

Reading an excerpt from The Souls of Black Folk by the great African-American intellectual W.E.B. DuBois for my sociological theory class last week, I came across the interesting description of Philadelphia’s Mother Bethel African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church copied above, including the reference to “a company of militia.”

A militia because where do you turn when the authorities may be a part of the problem?

The entire article is worth a moment of your time. And why aren’t your reading Professor Yamane’s writing? That’s worth your time as well.

St. Valentine’s Day Massacre

I wouldn’t be writing about The Outfit, and its activities on February 14, 1929, if not for taking a look at HeyJackass! to see what was happening in the the Windy City.

But first lets look at the original St. Valentine’s Day Massacre, courtesy of History.com.

Prohibition came into being in 1920. That made the gangsters rich. Bootlegging was big business, and George “Bugs” Moran was running an operation out of a garage at 2122 North Clark Street.

On February 14, seven members of Moran’s operation were gunned down while standing lined up, facing the wall of the garage. Some 70 rounds of ammunition were fired. When police officers from Chicago’s 36th District arrived, they found one gang member, Frank Gusenberg, barely alive. In the few minutes before he died, they pressed him to reveal what had happened, but Gusenberg wouldn’t talk.

Police could find only a few eyewitnesses, but eventually concluded that gunmen dressed as police officers had entered the garage and pretended to be arresting the men.

Shortly after that Al “Scarface” Capone was undisputed leader of all nefarious activities in Chicago.

Now back to the present day and HeyJackass!

As of today, [Friday] this month has already tallied 22 homicides, which is three times more than the massacre tallied. Last year we saw the equivalent of 74 St. Valentine’s Day Massacres but we doubt any of those homicides will become part of Chicago lore quite like the original.

That number is as of the Friday, 11 PM totals. For HeyJackass! the weekend runs from noon on Friday until 6:00 AM Monday. The festivities don’t usually start that early or run that late, but they can start before most people get off work, and run into the early morning hours of Monday. Unless it is a 3-day-weekend, of course. The totals will probably be updated periodically as the weekend goes by.

‡ “The Outfit” was (is?) the name of Al Capone’s organization. When I was living and working in Chicago in the late 1980s and into the 1990s, the FBI was still trying to stamp it out. Maybe they still are.

Ignorance Of History Is No Excuse

But then modern Americans are not only ignorant of history, but of lots of things. America has already had a gay president. (That’s the WaPo: they will throw a hissy fit if you dare to have an ad-blocker installed.)

James Buchanan had the honor of being the first openly gay President. That probably didn’t have anything to do with the disaster that was his tenure in the office.

How do we know Buchanan and King were a couple? In 1844, after King assumed his posting in Paris, Buchanan wrote a letter to a friend, complaining about being alone and not being able to find the right gentleman partner:

Also William Rufus King was a senator from Alabama.

You see Americans want to believe that all of history was like the 1950s. But then the 1950s were an aberration for a couple of reasons.

By not openly discussing this moment, we forget that being gay in the mid-19th century did not automatically exclude a man from national leadership. The idea that some people, including politicians and social leaders, are gay was not news or shocking to our forefathers. Americans generally considered it a private matter, and irrelevant to holding or performing public office. We obscure or even deny all this history, and, consequently, we miseducated our children and misdirect our attention.

But then the Left insists that “History begins with us.” They did that in the Soviet Union, in Mao’s China, and now they are doing it here. And since they virtually control education…

The Liberation of Auschwitz: January 27, 1945

History. Ignorance. Rinse. Repeat. The Shocking Liberation of Auschwitz: Soviets ‘Knew Nothing’ as They Approached.

The first Soviet Soldiers entered the camp at 9 AM.

Eighty-eight pounds of eyeglasses. Hundreds of prosthetic limbs. Twelve thousand pots and pans. Forty-four thousand pairs of shoes. When Soviet soldiers poured into Auschwitz in January 1945, they encountered warehouses filled with massive quantities of other people’s belongings. Most of the people who owned them were already dead, murdered by the Nazis in the Holocaust’s largest extermination and concentration camp.

The Germans had spent some time trying to destroy evidence of the camp, but much remained, including about 9000 prisoners. Only 7500 would survive.

Most of the other perpetrators of the Holocaust denied their involvement. [Rudolf] Höss [the SS officer who served as Auschwitz’s commandant for more than four years] did not. While he awaited his execution, he wrote his memoirs and expressed remorse for his crimes. He was hanged near the Gestapo quarters at Auschwitz—Poland’s last public execution.

John Moses Browning: Born January 23, 1855

I can’t do better than quote Tam, at View From The Porch, from 2011. Hats off, please…

It would not be an exaggeration to divide the world of metallic cartridge firearms to the periods “Before Browning” and “After Browning”. This is the guy who invented the slide on the automatic pistol.

Click that link for a list of his accomplishments.

New US Aircraft Carry to Be Named After WWII Hero

I expect that the media will ignore this story, because they probably can’t use it to make Trump look bad. Navy Will Name A Future Ford Class Aircraft Carrier After WWII Hero Doris Miller.

This will be the second ship named in honor of Miller, and the first aircraft carrier ever named for an African American. This will also be the first aircraft carrier to be named in honor of a Sailor for actions while serving in the enlisted ranks.

And there’s a history lesson….

On Dec. 7, 1941, Miller was collecting laundry on the battleship West Virginia (BB-48), when the attack from Japanese forces commenced. When the alarm for general quarters sounded he headed for his battle station, an anti-aircraft battery magazine, only to discover that torpedo damage had wrecked it. Miller was ordered to the ship’s bridge to aid the mortally wounded commanding officer, and subsequently manned a .50 caliber Browning anti-aircraft machine gun until he ran out of ammunition. Miller then helped move many other injured Sailors as the ship was ordered abandoned due to her own fires and flaming oil floating down from the destroyed Arizona (BB-33). West Virginia lost 150 of its 1,500 person crew.

Miller received the Navy Cross for his actions. (Hat tip to Godfather Politics.)

Flinging Calamari at Submarines?

Not quite. The Rise of the Attack Cephalopods. “Squid Anti-Submarine Mortar, it was a thing.”

Sarge at Chant du Départ has a history lesson. Pay attention; you might learn something. (It will only hurt for a minute!)

Now lest you think that this was a device for flinging calamari at enemy submarines (also known as “pigboats,” wait for it…), nope it was actually just the Brits with their penchant for giving things interesting names. Such as the Directorate of Miscellaneous Weapons Development. If ya can’t figure out who will use it or what it will be used against or even if you really need it, then assign the project to the DMWD. (No doubt where the LCS got its start…)

DMWD was responsible for the Hedgehog (another anti-submarine weapon, see the link above) and the Mulberry Harbor, used to create landing docks at the D-Day beaches, to offload ships and get material ashore.

Go read the whole thing. (I will warn you, it goes downhill from highbrow history to lowbrow humor pretty quickly.)

Igitur qui desiderat pacem, praeparet bellum.

The quote that forms title of this post is usually misquoted as “Si vis pacem, para bellum.” If you want peace, prepare for war. It is more correctly quoted as…

“Therefore, whoever wishes for peace let him prepare for war.”

The quote is from De re militari also known as Epitoma rei militaris by Publius Flavius Vegetius Renatus (or just Vegetius) from 5th Century Rome.

This is apropos of nothing, as the song says. Or maybe it came to mind because of what’s going on in Virginia.

The Ardennes Counteroffensive and the Belgian village of Noville

A History Lesson. You might learn something. (It will only hurt for a minute.) This Was the Most Horrific Battle at the Battle of the Bulge.

The Ardennes Counteroffensive, known colloquially as The Battle of the Bulge, took place from 16 December 1944 to 25 January 1945.

Shortly after 10:30 am on December 19, 1944, 26-year-old Major William Desobry picked up his field telephone, called his combat commander, Colonel William Roberts, and asked if he could withdraw from the Belgian village of Noville. Desobry had been holding off the entire German 2nd Panzer Division—some 16,000-men with more than 120 tanks and assault guns—for the last six hours with only 400 men and a handful of tanks and tank destroyers.

With so many Germans bearing down on him, Desobry knew that staying could mean suicide. Roberts, from his Bastogne headquarters in the Hotel LeBrun, gave an answer that probably made Desobry’s blood run cold. He told the young officer to hold the phone line.

With the sounds of battle reverberating against his headquarters walls, Desobry held the line. After what must have seemed like an eternity, Roberts came back on the line. “You can use your own judgment about withdrawing,” he said, “but I’m sending a battalion of paratroopers to reinforce you.”

There is much more of course. Go read the whole thing for a story of bravery, like you wouldn’t see out of today’s 26-year-olds or 18-year-olds. Bastogne you may have heard of, Noville not so much. Hat tip to The Feral Irishman, who has some thoughts on the 1965 film “Battle of the Bulge.”

Rear Admiral Grace Hopper – In Honor of Her Birthday: December 9, 1906

Grace Hopper (Amazing Grace) has to be one of my favorite people of the 20th Century. Shamelessly stolen from myself. It was originally posted in 2006, and amazingly, all the links still seem to work.


Grace HopperNot very many women were getting degrees in mathematics in 1928. (Not many are doing so today.) Grace Hopper got her MA in 1930 and a PhD. in 1934. She joined the Naval Reserve in 1943. Rear Admiral Grace Murray Hopper (December 9, 1906 – January 1, 1992) was a pioneer. She was one of the founders of modern computing.

Grace Hopper was the one who said, “It’s always easier to ask forgiveness than it is to get permission.” (This is one of my favorite quotes.)

Grace Murray Hopper often presented a piece of wire about a foot long, and explained that it represented a nanosecond, since it was the maximum distance electricity could travel in wire in one-billionth of a second. She often contrasted this nanosecond with a microsecond – a coil of wire nearly a thousand feet long – as she encouraged programmers not to waste even a microsecond.

First Computer BugHave you ever wondered where the term “computer bug” comes from? The Mark II Aiken Relay Calculator stopped working in September 1945. Lieutenant Junior Grade Hopper (who was always good with gadgets) was one of those who took it apart piece by piece until a moth was found stuck between the contacts of relay number 70. The log entry says “First actual case of bug being found,” and the word went out that the machine had been “debugged.” [click on the image for a large view of the log and the bug.]

Lt. HopperAlthough programmers the world over love-to-hate COBOL (the COmmon Business Oriented Language), it was one of the first compiled languages.

Perhaps [Grace Hopper’s] best-known contribution to computing was the invention of the compiler, the intermediate program that translates English language instructions into the language of the target computer.

Her compiler lead directly to the development of COBOL; a major step into the modern world of computing we know today. And there is still a VERY good chance that COBOL wrote your last pay check, printed your last bank statement, tracks your car insurance, …

Amazing Grace even has US Naval vessel named in her honor. The USS Hopper (DDG-70) is a 500 ft. long AEGIS Class Guided Missile Destroyer, generates 100,000 shaft horsepower and was commissioned on 6 September 1997. The ship’s motto is “AUDE ET EFFICE” which translates to “Dare and Do,” a favorite phrase of Rear Admiral Hopper’s when giving advice.

Grace Murray Hopper died in 1992 and was buried in Arlington National Cemetery, having become the first woman to hold the rank of rear admiral. Grace Hopper’s military awards and decorations include:

  • Defense Distinguished Service Medal
  • Legion of Merit
  • Meritorious Service Medal
  • American Campaign Medal
  • World War II Victory Medal
  • National Defense Service Medal
  • Armed Forces Reserve Medal with two Hourglass Devices
  • Naval Reserve Medal

The Navy, fittingly, has named its Data Automation Center in San Diego after her.

A Date Which Will Live in Infamy

December 7th, 1941. The Japanese, surprise attack on Pearl Harbor.

The Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor in order to convince the USA to let them do as they wanted to in the Pacific. Epic Fail.

Pearl Harbor is a U.S. naval base near Honolulu, Hawaii, that was the scene of a devastating surprise attack by Japanese forces on December 7, 1941. Just before 8 a.m. on that Sunday morning, hundreds of Japanese fighter planes descended on the base, where they managed to destroy or damage nearly 20 American naval vessels, including eight battleships, and over 300 airplanes. More than 2,400 Americans died in the attack, including civilians, and another 1,000 people were wounded. The day after the assault, President Franklin D. Roosevelt asked Congress to declare war on Japan.

After Pearl Harbor came Midway. After Midway came Hiroshima and Nagasaki. And after that came unconditional surrender. So like I said. Epic. Fail.