Thursday, January 19, 2017
The sergeant was still reeling from a concussion. All he knew for sure was that he was in mortal danger, surrounded by people who spoke a different language. Strangely, they were wearing the same uniform as he. Oh and one more thing, they were panicking. For that reason, he decided to make his escape or possibly he was going AWOL. He didn’t care.
He knew he was a sergeant, but could not recall his name, or what he was doing here, or even where he was. But he did not panic when he saw his chance. It was time to react! Fight or flight was a basic reaction and he was down to basics. He grabbed his 45 Colt and M1 Garand rifle when they were not looking and slipped out.
The majority of the noise and explosions were coming from the west, so he went east. Most of the men in uniform seemed to be going southeast. He decided to head for the sunrise. He did hear and understand the word “paratroops.” Then, he remembered those were the soldiers who jumped out of perfectly good airplanes to land behind enemy lines. He couldn’t remember if he was one of them or the enemy. He decided that despite the fact that all those around him didn’t speak his language (whatever that was), he would not shoot them. That course of action seemed to be the correct decision as they basically left him alone.
He had to use a crutch because of a huge bandage on his right leg. He hadn’t had time to examine the wound. He must be on some powerful medication because even though blood was seeping through the wrapping, he felt only a slight discomfort. He had a feeling that his pain level would change dramatically in a few hours.
He was stumbling along, almost dragging his rifle, suffering from a concussion, missing a big chunk of his calf muscle, and loopy from some drug. Suddenly, some guy comes out of nowhere and shouts a word he recognizes. Without thinking, he shouts another word back. Some kind of greeting he assumed. Anyway, it worked. A man he vaguely recognized poked his head around a piece of wall and didn’t shoot at him. The fellow didn’t seem too pleased to have found him, whoever him was, or was it whom he was.
As the man approached him, he recognized every third word. While, not all of it was completely clear as to it’s meaning, it was enough to trust the guy. Another 12 or so sullen individuals appeared from behind various hiding places. They seemed to know him. But again, were not very happy to see him. He felt kind of like a bad penny showing up. He couldn’t worry about that now as a big, ugly plane with red stars flew over them at very low level. He was going to take a shot at it, but the others warned him not to. The bullets would just bounce off and it would only warn the pilot that something unfriendly needed killing in his target area.
The plane flew straight and level over a particular section of the city. Liquid flame started to pour out of the tanks on its wings. That was enough to get the small group running to the east at a very fast pace with him trying to keep up, bad leg and all. He felt something squishy in his boot and stopped for a second to check it out. Every time he took a step a squirt of blood oozed from his bootlace holes. Not good.
The leader of the group doubled back and added another rag to his bandage, tying it very tight. The bleeding seemed to stop for the time being. When he stood up, he was very unsteady. Once again, his companion came to his aide. Luckily the man was on the large size and almost as big as he was. They made a good pair and soon caught up with the others.
Just as the others had disappeared around one of the seemingly endless corners, a man with their back towards them shouted something to someone else out of sight. Mankowitz shrugged off his human crutch and as he was dropping to the ground he unslung his rifle and shot the man just as he was about to shoot one of the other men in his group. Well, it was very nice to know he knew how to use the rifle he was lugging around. The move he just made, even impressed him, and he had no basis for being impressed. Hell, he couldn’t even remember his name.
His companion helped him to his feet, and once again, they hobbled east. The attack by the plane spewing fire made them go beyond exhaustion. It was two hours later, and he was feeling the pain and lots of it. He jerked away from the grip of his rescuer and fell towards a set of steps. He just barely caught himself before his head hit the ground. He lay there and waved on his companions, motioning that he was too tired and too much in pain to continue.
Out of nowhere, one of the squad pulled out a syrette…now, why did he remember that word and not his own name…and jammed it into his leg. Then, the soldier squeezed the tube and administered the medicine. He didn’t think that was how it was supposed to be done, but within seconds he didn’t care. They pulled him up and two others half carried and dragged him for another couple of hours. They stayed just ahead of the massive explosions and the ominous sounds of those flame throwing planes.
He finally learned that Nazik was the name of the leader and that his name was Sargent Mankowitz. He really didn’t think that was his name but he was assured by all in the group that it was. Also, learned that he was American, they were Turkish, and the enemy were Russians. None of it made any sense to him what so ever. He remembered another war where the Russians were his friends, and he had even gotten drunk with a bunch somewhere. No matter, memories were starting to return. Now, he could start to really think about the long-term survival of this little band of men who had saved each other’s lives. And that’s what it’s all about in the end he was sure. It didn’t matter if you were enemies one day and fighting side by side the next it seemed. Today was what mattered and today meant he would survive until tomorrow.
In the North, the story was similar to that on the banks of the Black Sea. What was left of the Soviet Black Sea Fleet bombarded areas 100 km from the Dardanelles along with massive attacks by the Soviet version of the Marines. Many of the troops were veterans of the Moonsund Landing Operation in the Baltic. They were better trained this time, thanks once again to the Americans. The Soviets had even more of the amphibious vehicles called DUKWs or more commonly Ducks. Over 5000 had been left behind in Germany and France and were now being used in the Black Sea.
The Turks opposing the landings had never seen anything like the DUKWs. For the most part, the Turks didn’t even try to shoot at the vehicles with small arms fire believing them to be more heavily armored than they were. In hindsight, a good 50 cal would cut through their hulls like a buzz saw. But, that was hindsight for you.
The end result was that 10,000 Soviet troops were on dry land north and east of Istanbul in a matter of hours. Also, the DUKWs could be used to transport supplies and troops on land like any other truck. These odd looking, possibly heavily armored, vehicles were quickly dispersing Soviet troops throughout the area around Sile. Soon, they were on their way to Izmit in an attempt to cut off three divisions of Turkey’s finest soldiers.
The old Russian battle cruiser Parizhskaya Kommuna took part in the bombardment along with the remainder of the Black Sea Fleet including the cruisers Molotov, Voroshilov, Krasnyi Krym and Krasnyi Kavkaz. These ships proved devastating to the shore defenses once the VVS and IL-10 Beasts had napalmed the shore batteries that could have posed a danger to the old ships. Unfettered from their fears of retaliation, they drove in close to shore and used their guns to silence all opposition worth note around the beaches of Sile. Shutting down the resistance gave the DUKWs an almost leisurely cruise and got the troops well on their way towards their respective objectives.
Things were going so well that something had to go wrong and it finally did. Finally, the Turks discovered that the DUKWs were just floating trucks and very vulnerable to small arms fire. They were not the fearsome armored beasts they had expected. That would come later. For now however, the DUKWs and the troops in them started to die.
The Turkish military was very good at small unit tactics and their soldiers some of the bravest in the world. When their generals did not place them in hopeless situations, they could more than hold their own. The invasion of the DUKWs ended at Tiki or about 19 km from Sile on the way to Izmit. A combination of rugged terrain and even more rugged Turkish soldiers started to devastate the flock. Even the shells of the old battle cruiser could not reach out and assist them now. The VVS did not have the range to make use of its ground attack arsenal. The IL-10 had a formidable collection of weapons, but it also had a relatively short range without drop tanks. It was the Soviet soldier with his small unit tactics and heroism against the Turkish soldier on even terms. The fighting became up close and personal as both sides preferred.
Scenes straight out of Stalingrad and Berlin started to unfold with meaningless buildings suddenly taking on life or death significance. One such building was the local mosque in Teke. Without artillery or anything larger than a grenade, this holy building changed hands over and over again for two days. 239 men died within its walls by ones and twos, while killing other men in ones and twos. After the first few attacks and counter attacks, every grenade thrown, was muffled by the dead bodies lying around. Following the first day, most who entered would shoot anybody who didn’t have a bullet hole in their forehead, just to make sure it wasn’t someone playing dead. It was a house of horrors with recognizable body parts lying all around from previous attacks. Large artillery and bombs tend to vaporize most human remains whereas grenades just chop them up.
How could you keep entering a building filled with such gore with the intent of creating more? Yet, they did, squad after squad went in with the goal of winning the view from the minaret or preventing the enemy from gaining that view as well. Then, squad after squad followed them in and carnage continued.
These types of assaults were repeated all along the lines until the VVS finally was able to move it bases closer to the front and started to end the Turks’ hold on these small strong points.
Wednesday, January 18, 2017
November 25th, 1946
Nazik reasoned that they wouldn’t waste another rocket of shell on a location they already destroyed. So as soon as the shell hit, he jumped into the newly created crater. It was still warm and smoking, but otherwise a good hole to hide in. He didn’t think there was one piece of Turkey within his eyesight that was not destroyed. The barrage of rockets, shells and bullets seemed to reach a crescendo and then, to his amazement, increased. How could they have so many guns and rockets pointed at his poor country?
He had his back to the Turkish Straights and was one of the first to notice the parachutes. Thousands of them coming down behind their lines. He had only the vaguest idea of what a parachute actually looked like. He had even a lesser understanding that some of the chutes were attached to armored cars like a balloon vendor’s cart. He did comprehend the men hanging from the majority of white cloth mushroom caps. More importantly, he was clear that they were between him and safety. The very safety he was going to run to when the shelling stopped. He would have left earlier, but the American had been watching him and his squad. When the American was wounded, he and many others started to look to the east. They urgently needed to escape the shelling and what they assumed was about to follow.
For now they were about to be possibly cut off from even that avenue of retreat. It appeared that there was an avenue of escape left open to the southeast where fewer parachutes had fallen. Others saw what he saw and started to jump from crater to crater in the only direction that still seemed open to them. A trapped animal is at its most dangerous and a trapped Turkmen is even more dangerous individually than your normal soldier. No one excels at individual survival than these masters of stealth and hand to hand combat.
It is quite possible that the way to freedom was purposefully left open. No records can be found of such a plan but it was curious that a quarter mile wide gap was conspicuously left open by the Soviet paratroops. This avenue of retreat led to a desert wasteland devoid of any strategic value. Armored cars where particularly useful in keeping the Turkish forces moving in a southeasterly direction.
As Nazik made his way to the open avenue of escape, he noticed the Ruskies soldiers were not even shooting at them and even the ground was less tortured by the rockets and bombs. Contrary to what you might think, these details unnerved Nazik even more than the massive barrage of hours earlier.
Nazik and his men went to work. In less than an hour, he destroyed an armored car and shot or stabbed 7 other paratroopers. That made 13 kills including the crew of the armored car and one officer who was hanging around the vehicle. He had made his personal quota and it was time to save his life and lives of his men for another fight. Every bone in his body told him not to take the obvious retreat route left open by the initial paratroops. His animal instincts told him it was not safe. He had lost none of his squad and they had done a good job despite the others around them running at first chance.
Three of his squad snuck off and ran with the waves of others to the corridor open to the southeast. Nazik led his men directly east from his original area of operations, the Kucuksu Palace on the shoreline overlooking the straights. It was a small palace that had been renovated in 1944 and was used by royal hunting parties as a stopping off point towards parts unknown. Nazik and his men had enjoyed their stay on the grounds. It was now a pile of ruins and rubble destroyed by the initial shelling and rocket attacks.
Knowing full well what was about to happen, the Turkish high command made the controversial decision to make the Western part of Istanbul or European side an open city. They were hoping to avoid Istanbul’s destruction, once again by an invading army, and had heavily fortified the eastern side or Asian side across the Turkish straights. Nazik was thankful that the western side was devoid of fortifications as it made his escape much easier. His departure would have been without drama, except for the 10,000 or so Soviet paratroopers between him and short term safety.
In his mind, he had made his twelve-kill quota and if everyone did as well they would have won. He did his part and his squad had done theirs as well. Now it was time to survive to fight another day. The centuries old Kucuksu palace had been obliterated in very short order because that is what enemies do to each other’s potential strong holds. From what he could discern, only a handful of artillery pieces had destroyed hundreds of years of history in a matter of minutes.
There were some others who were actually making better time than his men and he. They shouted out that the Ruskies were coming across the straights in small boats and rafts by the thousands. With most of the opposition decimated by the guns, rockets and heavy attack aircraft, it was going to be a very easy crossing. There were no bridges to speak of and the government had destroyed all the ferries that had plied the straights.
He supposed the Reds had built their own ferries and would be bringing them from the Black Sea once they gained both sides. They had decimated the opposition and had no problem with the great rivers of Europe. Consequently navigating the straights would be trivial. The paratroopers would clear the waterfront of all opposition and the small boats they were using would bring enough troops over to defend until the larger tanks negotiated the transports.
Nazik caught a glimpse of something moving to his right, and signaled for his remaining men to spread out and go silent. He mentally thanked the American sergeant for teaching his troop the use of hand signals. Although some didn’t make much sense when translated into Turkish, others worked quite well. A couple signals were offensive. He chose to ignore them. His men had devised others to replace them while still remembering the meaning of the discarded ones. The figure he caught a glimpse of was wearing a similar uniform and carrying a weapon at ready. He moved differently than his countrymen and that is what caught his eye. He couldn’t put a finger on it yet this kind of instinctual decision-making is what had kept him alive in all the years of combat he had been through.
He spoke the code word for the day and waited for the proper response. He got it, but with an obvious accent. Then, he knew who it was. It was the American assigned to his company. The one who trained them and made them fight until he was wounded. Here he was back from the dead. He shouted out the American’s name so he would know they were friendly. Sure enough, Mankowitz popped his head up for a second. They all heard firing close by and ducked. Mankowitz hobbled his way towards them. He was still bleeding from a leg wound. Someone had bound it up pretty well and he appeared to be in good shape considering. When Nazik last saw him, Mankowitz was unconscious. The same rocket had hit them both but the Yank’s wound was much worse.
Sunday, January 15, 2017
He was churning up inside. On the outside he was as cool as you can be, but inside he was producing all sorts of chemicals and his body was not in balance with what he was thinking. His mind was overtly controlling how he was perceived but his inner chemistry was jacked up. The cause was his concern for the bombing crews he had sent out this morning. They were going to try a new and very risky operation. LeMay had warned him that if the planned Wiley Coyote maneuver ended up in tragedy, he would personally see to Twining’s courts martial. But, that really wasn’t his main concern.
He was genuinely worried about his crews, about the boys he saw everyday walking to the briefings and standing in the chow line. He didn’t care what anyone said. They were his boys and his responsibility. If he had done anything to increase the chances of them not returning to their mothers and fathers then he would never forgive himself.
In other words, he was a good commander and an outstanding leader. His men could sense that and they would have followed him to Moscow if he ordered it. On the other hand, they knew he would not put their lives in needless danger so they didn’t question his leadership. He had, himself,
experienced ditching an airplane. He spent six days in a life raft during the last war when the plane he was on had engine trouble in the Pacific between Guadalcanal and Espiritu Santo. He knew what it was like to feel abandoned and forsaken.
The fighters appeared first as usual. They were the lowest on fuel and the fastest. A CAP was formed when they were about an hour out to prevent or as least harass the inevitable Soviet attempts at incursion over their base’s airspace. Without the strong CAP, the crazy Ivans would follow them all the way home and shoot them down as they landed. They had actually experienced that a few times. The VVS has sent flights of longer ranged Yak 9s at very low altitude towards their forward bases. They had done a good job of shooting up the place. So, now a strong CAP was SOP at low altitude to deter the Ivans in the future. For the most part, it worked.
He could tell from the radio chatter that morale was good. Improving morale was one of the main reasons he had let the development of the Wiley Coyote progress. The losses were not sustainable, yet the Pentagon kept ordering them in. The Soviets were losing pilots as well. But, they were flying fighters and a few medium bombers so every plane shot down by us only involved the loss of one man. Each of our bombers shot down was seven times worse. From all reports, the VVS was keeping up with trained pilots and fighter planes where we were not. We were losing more bombers than could be replaced in a timely manner, especially when it was the B-29. Even at full production, we only were able to produce 65 a month. Before SAC was given a breather, they were on pace to lose 100 a month.
The most maddening part was that the Soviet’s oil production was increasing despite the SAC’s best efforts. The slow but inevitable loss curve in bomber numbers had developed much like the one the Luftwaffe experienced with their fighters. Unless something changed, they were going to lose this fight.
He heard the first of the venerable B-24 Liberator bombers’ engines and decided to go back inside and wait for the reports. He was actually optimistic at least as far as morale was concerned. Temporarily, at least, the Wiley Coyote had done the trick.
A few hours later, the reports were added up and he was looking at them with renewed hope. Twenty squadrons had pulled a Wiley Coyote and only three were hit by a SAM. Seventeen had successfully evaded the missile shot at their mission leader’s plane. This was very good news indeed. Losses were actually sustainable for a change and hovered around 6%. Very close, but sustainable when America’s manufacturing finally hit its stride.
The corporate leaders had finally been shamed into making the switch once again from consumer products to military production. It seems the US was out of money. Being the good capitalists they were, it took some arm twisting to get them to support the war effort. Ford was poised once again to pump out B-24s and it looked like they would be the workhorse once again. The B-17 got the headlines while the Liberators did the work.
It was kind of interesting that this war had been mainly fought using the last war’s equipment. He supposed that if the war dragged on more and more sophisticated machines would be fighting it out. For now, it was still the propeller vs. the propeller for the most part.
You just couldn’t crank out jets as fast as you could piston engines. You could shoot them down as fast however. He mused that future wars will be fought and won or lost very quickly due to the fact that it was eventually going to be quality over quantity that would win the day. Today it was still quantity and they were fighting an opponent that was second to none in producing good-enough equipment in massive quantities. Quantity had been the issue for the Germans. Their equipment was superior to ours but they lacked the industrial capacity to match us. Their superior jets and tanks were not superior enough to overcome our greater numbers. But now we were in a war with an opponent who could potentially keep pace with our production.
The Soviet Union and the US had something in common. Unlike the Germans and the British, our means of production were almost impossible to attack at the moment. Hell, we didn’t even know where their facilities were located. For the most part their manufacturing sites were so far inland and hidden that it was very similar to us having the Atlantic Ocean between us and their attacking forces. Their ocean happened to be the vastness of their country. We executed a very well planned attack on their oil fields and refineries before they could react, but they closed that window surprisingly fast.
His mood took a turn for the better as he read the After Action reports. They were very positive and the Wiley Coyote maneuver was a qualified success. It had increased morale as well as shaved a point or two off of the losses. The reduced losses meant that on a 500 bomber raid another five or ten crews made it to base and 35 to 70 Americans made it home. 70 less letters that had to be written, and 70 more men would not be ripped from their families and shipped overseas, and that was worth it.
Wednesday, January 11, 2017
21 November 1946
Jonesy was a tail gunner in the Ypsilanti Queen B-24 bomber that was the tail end Charlie of the first box of 12 Squadron in the 7th raid on Baku. Over the last month, three raids had been sent with sorties of 500 or more bombers on each. The one raid where the planners pushed the envelope went through the deepest defended route. It was the fastest and most direct route and that is why it had the most flack batteries and missile installations. Their theory was the least amount of time you spent over enemy the fewer the losses. The planners’ theory was wrong.
The mission leader himself was lost along with 15% of the raid. It was the most devastating loss the Air Force had ever experienced in a single raid. 612 bombers entered enemy airspace and 522 returned to base. 99 crews and their planes were lost. Over 900 casualties were incurred. The next mission they tried something new, they had to.
The squadrons who had been practicing “Moving Boxes” were allowed to move their bomber box. Moving the box required an extreme amount of coordination and practice to prevent chaos during the maneuver. This simultaneous turning movement of a whole squadron was nicknamed the “Wiley Coyote.”
|Bomber Box - In part developed by General Curtis LeMay|
The first five bomber boxes in this raid had all worked together before. The box that a missile was directed at was allowed to turn to port at the appropriate moment. The timing had to be precise and the choreographing well-rehearsed, to make it work.
The thought was that the Stalin’s Fire Missile was fairly easy to out maneuver if you were allowed to do so. Even a B-24 could prevent being hit if a hard turn and dive were performed. The fighters and medium bombers were doing it all the time and until today the Heavies had not been allowed to break formation. For the first time, the Heavies were to execute the new maneuver in squadron-sized formations.
The 15th had taken over the brunt of the sorties against the oil fields of the USSR. SAC was worn out and in desperate need of planes and personnel. LeMay had rolled the dice and lost. His men could not keep up with his ego and the B-29s were getting shot down faster than they could be made.
In the previous war, LeMay was a real advocate of change and of innovation. He had had a number of war winning ideas to his credit. He could rightfully take credit for the bombers’ box formation. There was a significant reduction in losses over Europe once the innovation was in place. Similarly, he recognized the Norden bombsight was of no use over Japan. The fast-moving river of air dissipated the bombs and accuracy was limited. LeMay’s brilliant and lucky response was to fly below this fast moving current of wind, striped the bombers of all their defensive guns and gunners. He had them pack the planes full of incendiaries. It had worked. Most raids of this type, killed more Japanese civilians than the atomic bombs.
For whatever reason, LeMay could not grasp that his current methods were not and would not work against the combination of flack, fighter planes, air to air missiles and surface to air missiles. He was locked into a mindset that did not let him admit defeat or let him change tactics. Consequently SAC’s losses had caused the Joint Chiefs to halt all operations and to turn it over to the 15th.
General Twining was in his element and operations were going smoothly as possible. The losses were unacceptable but within expectations. On this mission they were going to boost morale. The special Wiley Coyote squadrons were going to lead the way. They were to use their highly practiced maneuvering scheme to try and mitigate the Soviet SAM missiles. They were going to make the God Damn SAMs miss.
The moniker SAM had just recently caught on. It stood for Surface to Air Missile and was easy to say and remember. So SAM it was from this point forward. The Soviets would still call the missiles Stalin’s Fire but NATO called them SAMs.
The missiles fired from the Soviet medium bombers were given the name AAM for Air to Air Missile. Whatever their names, the various missiles were still very good at creating huge holes in the bombers’ combat boxes where the Soviet fighters could slip through for easier kills. In addition, the missiles were targeting the lead bombers and taking out the most experienced crews, adding to the demoralization of the units.
Jonesy had a ringside seat to the action behind him and he was an integral part in the formation flying they were about to engage in. The oil fields at Baku were spread out and dispersed after the initial raids. As Soviet repairs were completed, redundancy and camouflage were incorporated. It was very hard for the recon flights to discern what was wreckage and what was new construction made to look like wreckage. Some say that it was by accident and Soviet workmanship that the sites looked destroyed when others knew it was by design.
The Soviet repairs meant that the time for precision bombing was over. The fact that there might be gaping holes in the bomber stream didn’t matter. These holes would continue to be created periodically by squadrons doing a Wiley Coyote maneuver of turning as a squadron to make the missiles miss. The chances were that the area not bombed was vital. But then again, it might not.
The Soviet SAMs and AAMs had made Carpet Bombing a thing of the past. The missiles wreaked havoc in the tight formations needed to accomplish such a bombing mission. Huge holes would have been torn in the formation. Holes that had previously been filled by men and machine. Holes that would for a split second be made of bones, flesh, blood and metal after the missile’s warhead exploded. Then the pieces of a once beautiful airplane would combine with pieces of sons, brothers and fathers slowly falling to the ground.
Jonesy was still awed by the sight of the whole squadron quickly veering to port. Also, he was amazed at the skill of the pilots in avoiding each other while still remaining in formation. It was a wonderful display of skill. The commander had called out SAM launch and everyone had waited to see who would be the target. They had not tried to out maneuver the AAMs sent their way. The escorting P-51 and P-38s were doing a fair job of keeping the medium bombers from launching properly so there were numerous loose AAM missiles seeking targets. Jonesy had actually seen one slam into a Soviet bomber that was in the wrong place at the wrong time.
This time it was for real and this time it would hopefully save a life or two. As they approached Baku, the skipper was the first to report SAM! Jonesy couldn’t see it from his rear facing position but he could feel the ship get a little tenser.
Something happened to catch his eye off to the West. It was another SAM and he dutifully called it out. He had beat Williams in number three that time. They had a running tally going on and this was his and his alone. Williams was up by three until this one. You didn’t get many chances from the tail position to call a SAM out.
The Soviets must be altering their tactics as well. He heard the Skipper say a quick “oh shit’ and knew that they were the target of the first launch. They had already fought their way through a gauntlet of AAM thrown at them by a bunch of Bats the Lightnings had seemed to have over looked. Out of twenty missiles fired three had hit, far too many. The P-38s had got a measure of revenge by shooting down 2 Bats that he could see. They were unusually aggressive for this early in the bomb run. Must be some kind of ultimatum going on in the Commie world. He didn’t care as long as they were easier to shoot down.
He himself had gotten two of those radial jobs, the La7. It looked a lot like the FW190 and just as deadly. The guy must have been stunned by a near miss because he just showed up not 150 ft. behind the Ypsilanti Queen. It was an easy shot. The La7 blew up quite spectacularly as a tracer must have hit some misting fuel. It happened two sorties ago and was still fresh in his memory. He could have sworn that he saw the upper torso and head of the Commie go spinning to the ground. Maybe he was trying to get out of the fighter that was going down from previous damage when Jonesy had hit him.
Another violent shutter brought him back to the moment. His headphone crackled…
“Five, four, three, two, one GO!”
He heard the skipper yell.
The Ypsilanti Queen shuttered as it dove and turned for all its worth to the left. The other planes followed in a precise move that was incredible to watch. Then, he saw it…this was his part of the drama. It was his moment to contribute.
“She missed Skip…SHE MISSED! He shouted as he caught sight of the missile straining to turn with his ship. It flew right past about 300 feet. Thank god the Reds had not figured out a way for the missile to change targets in mid flight. They seemed hell bent on the destruction of just one bomber at a time and didn’t switch course once they honed in on a target. Then they would straighten out and go for another few kilometers and then explode. Probably some kind of failsafe mechanism he had heard an Egghead say.
A few seconds after he made his pronouncement, the Skipper counted down again and pushed the engines to max as they climbed to regain formation. He watched some circling fighters warily but none seemed interested in attacking their seemingly lost Box. Jonesy guessed they were waiting for Ypsilanti Queen to get separated further from the stream. When she didn’t it was too late for them to pounce. He figured the fighters were somewhat stunned by the squadron’s maneuver but would probably adapt soon enough in this war of move and counter move.
It seems like when one side or the other gets the upper hand, the other figures out a way to gain it back in spades. Take for example the atomic bomb. Rumor has it that it was sabotage that stopped the program but then we used our last 4 bombs. They should have been the knockout punch, but true to form the Soviets came right back with their air defense systems. They had started to use modified VT fuse on us now! It was kind of hit and miss so they weren’t as deadly to us as ours were to the Japs but they were still far too accurate for anyone’s liking.
And there they were right back in formation with the whole maneuver taking about 15 minutes. Not too shabby in combat conditions. He spotted three other squadrons doing the Wiley Coyote maneuver as well. One got caught though. He guessed from the aftermath and smoke trail of the missile that the leader had turned too soon. Easy to do considering what was coming at you. If you turned too soon the missile had time to turn with you and WHAM (as they say in the comics) your dead. It looked like two bombers went down with that hit. He had heard at a demonstration of the Wiley Coyote maneuver back at the base that you had to be within a three second window to make the turn fast enough yet not too soon. No wonder those guys had misjudged.
They dropped their bombs and lost another dozen or so of their number to missiles and fighters on their way home. The Ruskies followed them all the way back it seemed. The fighters had their hands full for almost the whole flight with the Reds launching as soon as they could and following us back as far as they dared.
He was just starting to relax when one of those little jets snuck up from below and caught him day dreaming. A small movement caught his attention. The ball gunner had completely missed the little bugger as it rose from nowhere to suddenly be on their tail. The jet was lining up on Jonesy’s nose with its 30 mm cannon. The Stalin’s Dart fired first but Jonesy was more accurate and the little plane exploded as the last of its 30 mm cannon rounds took off Jonesy’s left ear, and the right leg of the left waist gunner named Cooper. Miraculously the round did not explode and must have been one of the tracer rounds. Otherwise, they would have been cut in half as well.
Bleeding like a chicken with its head cut off, he screamed, into the intercom for help and to see if the rest of the plane was still in one piece. The Skipper replied calmly, that all was well, and Michaels would be back to help him soon. In the meantime, he should stop the bleeding. Jonesy was able to calm down and found the first aid kit. He was trying to tie a bandage to his head when Michaels showed up covered in blood. Jonesy thought he was hit but Michaels assured him that it was blood from Cooper.
His ear was shot clean off and was still in one piece, so Michaels decided to keep it cold and see if they could sew it back on. That really did the trick and Jonesy got his act together, insisting that he could still man the tail gun. That action won him the Silver Star among other things including his wife who he met on a War Bond Tour nine months later, complete with his ear sewn back on. Reunited as it were with a piece of himself. His wife was movie star gorgeous and a business woman as well, but we’ll continue their story later.
Monday, January 9, 2017
November 10, 1946 0842
Report # 134
Subject: After Action Report for October.
To: The Joint Chiefs of Staff
Attn: General Eisenhower
Bombing of the oil production facilities of the Soviet Union continued unabated. Five large raids were planned for the weeks of 13-27 October, 1946. Availability of bombers and their crews postponed two out of the five raids. An unexpected loss of supplies and aviation fuel by submarine activity off the coast of Tunisia and Libya had caused the delays. Numerous reports of small mini-subs attacking shipping at chokepoints near Tunis, Benghazi and Tobruk.
The 15th Air Force started operations on 12 October 1946 with a 245 plane raid on Baku shortly after a raid by SAC. The raid seemed to catch the VVS reloading and was an unqualified success with major oil storage facilities destroyed near Khatai. Oil production in the Baku area is estimated at 37% and increasing despite our bombing efforts.
SAC continues to rely on large formation of B-29 entering enemy airspace at 24,000 ft. Leadership continues to insist that the Norden Bomb sight and radar bombing from a high level will significantly reduce oil production of the USSR. Evidence suggests that the same fast moving wind that covers Japan also is prevalent in this area and other tactics might be in order. They continue to take unsustainable losses.
The 15th AF has authorized the development of rather risky maneuver designed to allow a large formation of bombers to evade missile attacks. Currently progress has been made with no midair collisions reported. It is therefore suggested that this endeavor be allowed to continue.
All airbases in the area continue to operate with extreme efficiency. The unexpected losses off North Africa had caused the re-routing of convoys around the Cape to the Suez. This delay has been overcome by increasing the amount of shipping along the route with assistance from Canada, Brazil and South Africa. The re-routing had a temporary effect on SAC’s operations tempo that has been rectified. The 15 AF was not in operational status and was not affected.
The Soviet forces continue to mass on the borders of Turkey. Increase in air activity and a blatant disregard for Turkish sovereignty is apparent. Although no formal declaration of war has been declared, VVS air forces continue to make incursions into Turkish airspace in pursuit of our bomber formation. A number of attacks on airfields in Turkey have previously been noted. A long range, low level fighter sweep by Yak 9D fighter planes, code name Far Boy, attacked the air bases in Kaysari on 28 October as has been noted in previous reports.
Militarily, there has been no effect on operations of an undeclared war over Turkey. It is curious as to why neither side has done the obvious.
The Mediterranean Fleet continues to prepare for future operations. The sight of a dozen aircraft carriers plainly seen steaming just off the coast of Egypt is a concern for operational security. It appears to be common knowledge that this large contingent of our Naval Air Arm was in the Mediterranean and not in the Atlantic. See attached report.
As mentioned previously, the threat of submarine warfare has been mitigated by using the longer route to the Suez. Tactics and new technologies are actively being developed to address this new threat caused by enemy submarines to our supply lines connecting the major islands in the Mediterranean as well as merchant marine traffic traversing the routes previously used.
The assignment of over 250 advisors to the Turkish military has been completed. Each of these experts were embedded in their respective Turkish units. Each of these experts where chosen by their commanders and tasked with training the Turkish troops in the latest infantry and small unit tactics. These highly trained experts are expected to double the combat effectiveness of the Turkish forces facing the Soviet Union.
Very preliminary reports indicate that the majority of the assigned personnel are working with their Turkish counterparts on a daily basis. The Turkish government has expressed its gratitude for this welcome assistance in its valiant effort to build up its defenses for an expected and eminent attack.
No other ground forces are currently engaged in the theatre.
Continued preparedness of the amphibious forces is paramount. Training continues unabated. Most of the equipment stockpiled from the planned invasion of the Japanese islands have been retrofitted and brought back into service. Enough equipment has been brought back into service to land and support 25 divisions a month up to a total of 90 divisions worldwide by June 1947. Ongoing discussions are proceeding and focusing on the targets and goals for possible invasion scenarios.
It is highly recommended that each of these invasions be designed to trap as many Soviet units as possible, separating them from their bases of supply, and isolating them from their sources of command and control.
Recommendation for possible invasion sites:
Possible invasions dates would start as early as 15 April 1947.
Naval forces should take every opportunity to hit Soviet forces with gunfire supported by air cover. The true extent of the strength of our Naval Air Arm should be hidden from the VVS and will play a major role in trapping Soviet forces worldwide.
Saturday, January 7, 2017
We have no idea where or who took the movie. We do know when. It was shot before the Soviets started their attack on Turkey. We are just going to describe what it shows.
The Boy and the Porpoise
The initial scene is a beautiful day on the Sea of Marma. You can see a number of unmistakable landmarks in the distance. The exact bay or inlet we are looking at is impossible to tell. The first couple of shots are just the sun and water so it must have been in the afternoon. The cameraman is obviously hiding from something that is across the water. He zooms in on one of the tanks the Soviets have moved up in the night.
All of a sudden the camera jolts to the left as if the cameraman hears something and is trying to find it while looking through his viewfinder. Then we see it. What is it? At first it’s just a ripple of something just under the water, but very near the surface, like a fish gently feeding on a bug and sucking it into its mouth.
It starts to move fairly fast and we see the dorsal fin of a harbor porpoise with something else trailing behind. That something else turns out to be a very small boy holding on to the fin and being dragged along by the porpoise. The child is so small that even the porpoise easily carry him. If you had to guess you would say the boy is about four years old at the most.
You can see the boy take a breath of air but it is not a breath of desperation but one of normal activity. Then, he turns his face towards the camera just as the photographer zooms in. You see a look of utter joy on the boy’s face. He obviously is having the time of his young life. He is enjoying himself like no one else ever has. The porpoise is willingly giving him a ride and they both are enjoying it.
For a second he lets go and his playmate disappears and then suddenly leaps out of the water and over the boy’s elated face. The porpoise disappears from the surface again, then leaps once more as the boy reaches up and touches his playmate’s belly when he comes into range and soars over him. It happens again. The boy cannot swim too well so the porpoise comes along side and lets him catch his breath by holding on.
It is a mesmerizing sight to behold and a wonder. Who was this boy? How had he and the porpoise become friendly? How long had they been doing this? Were they both still alive?
The porpoise nuzzles the boy and he in turn pats its head and gives it a kiss that the animal seems to like. The porpoise sweeps around again and comes up under the boy letting him hold on once more and they speed off. The porpoise in front and the boy almost flying behind. Once again you can see the joy on the boy’s face. Then, they dive. The camera searches for them. It follows the path that they would have been on had they gone straight. After a few moments the operator zooms out and starts to pan first right then left searching for the pair. Nothing...it goes on like this for a couple of minutes.
Such a small boy couldn’t have held his breath that long. Where was he? Had he drowned? The care the porpoise had shown for the boy led you to believe that it would never let him come to harm. But, where did they go? It is a film clip full of the joy and wonder of life, yet also full of questions.
Questions that have never been answered. After spending a few more seconds looking for the pair the cameraman pans back to the Soviet units moving in along the western shoreline.
You don’t feel sad when the movie ends. Even though the boy and the porpoise have disappeared beneath the water. The final scene is of the enemy lining up for an assault. This should put you in a pensive mood. On the contrary, if you ask most who see this small clip they are filled with a feeling of joy and hope. The look on the boy’s face will stay with you forever and may even rekindle your love for mankind, it is just that powerful.
No one knows where the clip came from. No one knows who have the filmmaker was. But anyone who sees the clip, doesn't seem to care.
Thursday, January 5, 2017
Wait...wait...now! Easy, easy, common you beautiful thing...that’s right now keep the nose up. “How are we doing Wilkins?...over”
“Looks good Skip. The rest of the squadron is turning in unison. I never thought I see a squad of B-24s doing an aerial ballet. It looks real good from here and everything is nominal Skip...over.”
Okay rolling back to the port...nice and easy.
“Squadron...simulate a jink to the starboard on three, two, one, mark.”
Pull hard... rudder opposite keeping that nose up... come on don’t fail me now. God damn you’re doing a thing of beauty here.
“Tail to Skipper... Watch Flying Wedge Skip she’s close to stalling out...over.”
“Copy...over.” Lieutenant Storm, get your speed up! You still have your trim flaps full.”
Jesus, who would have thought that I would have to help these guys fly as well as keep my bird in the air.
“Good call Tail...over.”
“How are the other squadrons doing Owens?..over”
“Remarkably well Skipper. It looks like number three has worked it out and their last maneuver was a thing of beauty...over”
“Good to hear....over.”
Owens had a ringside seat for some pretty amazing flying. We’ll let him tell the tale.
“When we first started it was awful. I mean bombers aren’t built to dodge and weave and especially when surrounded by other bombers. I mean everyone but LeMay knew it was possible, but no one was sure it could be done on a squadron level without putting other squadrons in danger.
12 B-24s dropping out of formation and making a tight turn in unison and then reforming with the rest of the bomber stream was quite a sight to behold. Yet, they were pulling it off. You really had to think in three dimensions to make it work and they had figured it out ...in theory. We had yet to try it in combat. In fact, the whole 15th Air Force had yet to drop a bomb or see a Soviet fighter much less those missiles they shot at you."
The whole concept boiled down to the fact that those missiles were going so fast that a well-timed turn or change in altitude could make them miss. Well timed is the key. Make the maneuver too soon and the damn things adjusted. Make it too late, and well, it’s too late. The real challenge was timing and spacing.
The really new concept was that the maneuver involved the whole bomber stream. There was nothing new about turning in unison. Every time a squadron turned for home, they banked and turned together. They had that move down pat. It was everyone’s favorite part of every mission besides landing. The bomber stream followed as they got to the point where they had dropped their bombs.
They had all watched in envy as the fighters blithely jinked this way or that, and faked out the missiles. Very few fighters were shot down by either air to air or ground to air missiles anymore.
Even a single bomber could just barely out maneuver one of Stalin’s Fire ground to air missiles if they did not have to worry about colliding with their neighbors. The air to air missiles were another matter and they would have to rely on the fighters to keep the launching platforms at arm’s length.
This new emphasis on squadron maneuvers might not have much effect on the actual hit rate of the missiles but it would have a huge effect on moral. The missiles seemed to always lock in on the lead bombers. Even if the whole squadron could not get out of the way of the missile, at least now the flight leaders had a fighting chance. The predictions were that the hit rate would go down only a small amount but that the damage would be more evenly spread out and not just the flight and squadron leaders.
Spreading out the damage was not emphasized or even spoken openly about. The goal was to lower the hit rate overall but everyone knew that it would have the effect of spreading out the danger more evenly. The missiles were focused so intently on their initial targets that it was easy to tell which squadron and even which plane it was locked on to and they very rarely deviated and chose another target. Knowing you’re the target of the missile meant two things for the plane in the crosshairs. One was a distinct advantage. The second was terrifying. Terrifying to know the missile was locked on to your plane and attempting to blow you and your crew to pieces.
The rule was that whatever squad started a turn first was given priority and until they had complete their evasive maneuver no adjoining squadron could leave the formation. If you left the bomber stream too soon you would be subject to charges. If you maneuvered too late you might get hit.
Any thinking person could see that this would not make much difference in the overall hit rate but is would boost the morale of the crews and at this point in the war that was critical. Twilling knew his men and how much they could take. This tiny gesture could just give him another month or so before it became apparent once again that they were not winning.
SAC was already at that point. The 15th would step in and take over for a while. He and his brand new but old, shiny B-24s were polished up and ready for action and they would give SAC a breather...a respite from the inevitable. Basically the bombers of the 15th were just more targets for the Reds to shoot at. They would be no more successful than the B-29s at reversing the oil production rate. They could and would slow it down and that was good enough in the eyes of the Joint Chiefs.
That was good enough to justify their possible deaths. Sacrifices had to be made and they were.