Author Topic: A Simple Issue of Metals  (Read 14244 times)

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A Simple Issue of Metals
« on: December 17, 2011, 05:53:23 AM »
A Simple Issue of Metals

In mid 1939, geologists in Finland discovered large deposits of high grade nickel and chromium ore.  A number of months following this, in early 1940, Germany and Finland negotiated an agreement whereby Germany would construct large refineries in Finland to refine the ore.  In return, Finland agreed to supply large quantities of refined nickel and chromium to Germany – the first shipments arrived in 1942.  Though not immediately obvious, these developments were to have far reaching consequences. 

The ore which was to have such an impact.




With a secure supply of these metals (and with deposits of the equally important molybdenum already available from occupied Norway), Junkers was able to fully develop their new Jumo-004 turbojet engine (this wasn’t the only turbojet under development, though it did receive the highest priority).  This had previously been limited in performance due to the lack of sufficient quantities of expensive high-temperature alloys in the "hot section" (combustion chamber and turbine).  As such, the company had been experimenting with the 004B variant which used air cooled, hollow turbine blades made of inexpensive steel.  However, despite these innovative techniques, the design still had a limited engine life of around 25hrs.  With suitable materials now available, Junkers quickly developed the 004C variant – this included not only suitable high-temperature materials, but also many of the improved design features of the 004B variant.  The resulting engine had a greatly increased life of around 200hrs.

The Jumo 004C engine.



With the engines no longer causing trouble, Messerschmitt was able to rapidly start producing the new Me-262 in both A-1a fighter and A-2a high-speed bomber versions (the Me-262 had been selected over the similar, though lower performing He-280).  Rapid production was also greatly aided by the new Minister of Armaments and War Production, Albert Speer, who ensured that both the new jet and its revolutionary engines received top priority.  As part of this program, production of the existing Me-109 was ceased, thus freeing up a great deal of excess capacity (As part of the same reorganisation, Speer also reprioritized many other programs, such as the Panther tank, to ensure maximum output of the most useful weapons).   By mid 1943, the first Me-262s were starting to re-equip a number of Luftwaffe units.  A small number were also supplied to Finland as further payment for the nickel and chromium (and to protect the all important refineries).  They would soon have a devastating impact on the Allies. 

The new Me-262 fighters.







The lower performing He-280.



Minister of Armaments and War Production, Albert Speer watching the new jets perform





Also talking with General der Jagdflieger Adolf Galland about the new jets



And the designer, Prof Messerschmitt



Not long after the first shipments of metal arrived in Germany from Finland, another event took place that would have almost as great an impact.  On the night of June 14th 1942, the crew of a new He-177A-3 bomber on an operation over England struggled to escape a RAF night fighter.  In their struggles to escape, they jettisoned their load of bombs.  It was in vain though, as shortly thereafter the bomber was shot down.  Both the bombs and the bomber itself landed upon a country estate north of London with devastating effect.  Though not immediately apparent this one incident effectively crippled the top secret ‘Ultra’ cryptanalysis program through the deaths of dozens of top scientists as well as the destruction of their facilities.  With this service no longer providing an invaluable insight into Axis intentions and operational plans, the Allies were returned to ‘operating in the dark’, and things were to soon become very dark.

Bletchy Park – Home of the Allied Ultra program.



The cause of its destruction



By late 1943/early 1944, large numbers of the Me-262A-1as started appearing (often armed with rockets) to meet the Allied bomber fleets.  The result was normally carnage with the jets seemingly immune to the escorting fighters.  By breaking up the bomber formations and distracting the escorting fighters, they also allowed the more conventional piston engined fighters to be used to better effect. By the end of February, following a number of raids where the losses exceeded 50%, the US Eighth Air Force was forced to switch to night attacks in a bid to curtail their losses.  A secondary effect (though no less important) of this change was the freeing up of the daytime skies over the Reich which allowed for more effective training of new aircrew as well as the virtually unhindered movement of forces by day.  Even the Allied fighter bombers weren’t able to make an impact, as the widespread introduction of new anti-aircraft versions of the Panther tank helped ensure even the German armoured columns were protected.

Luftwaffe Me-262A-1As



Luftwaffe Me-262A-1As in operation.







R4M Rockets used to devastating effect.




The 30mm cannon were also deadly- examples of B-17s and B-24s hit by them.




USAAC Bombers in new night operation livery





At the same time as this was occurring, the Me-262A-2a bombers also started to make themselves felt with raids on ports and other key targets all across Great Britain (they were also greatly aided in this by Ar 234B-1 reconnaissance aircraft that were able to provide unrivalled imagery of almost the whole of Great Britain).   Though at first viewed as mere pinpricks, a more devastating use was soon to follow.

Me-262A-2a bomber.



Ar-234 Reconnaissance version taking off.

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Re: A Simple Issue of Metals
« Reply #1 on: December 17, 2011, 05:53:47 AM »
A Day of Disaster

On the 6th June, 1944, the Allies mounted their long awaited invasion of western, mainland Europe (D-day – widely known afterwards as “Disaster Day”).  Although the conditions were far from ideal (especially with the strategic bombing campaign in disarray), pressure was placed by a number of politicians (especially Winston Churchill who was concerned that the USA might change its focus to the Pacific, though Stalin had also been pushing the Allies to open a Western front) for the landing to take place.  They widely believed (or hoped) that once ashore, a beachhead would quickly be established and the Germans would be too pre-occupied with the land campaign to be able to do much else.  Unfortunately, this did not happen.

As the first troops started to come ashore, wave after wave of Me-262A-2a bombers appeared.  Leading them were a number of the previously unknown Me-262A-2a/U2 version.  This version had a glazed nose accommodating a bombardier, thus allowing more accurate bombing as well as dedicated guidance of guided bombs/missiles that were often carried.  Using combinations of bombs, rockets and guided bombs/ missiles, the jets took a high toll of both the troops ashore as well as their supporting ships.  In the air, the Allied fighters tried desperately to defend their compatriots, though they too were fighting for their lives against the Me-262A-1a fighters of JG-26.  Supporting the jets were large numbers of conventional piston engined fighters operating in the ground attack role – with the jets causing disarray, even a few Ju-82G-1 antitank aircraft were able to make an appearance.

The Me-262A-2a/U2 dedicated bomber version – these proved deadly on D-day.




The final straw came when a number of German armoured units were able to make it to the beaches (with Allied aircraft tied up dealing with the jets, these were able to move relatively unhindered from staging posts).  It was Dieppe all over again, but on a far greater scale.  Though they valiantly tried to hold out, by the morning of the 7th, the Allied ground forces were forced to evacuate – though this was in no way an easy proposition with many more ships and men lost in the process (this time there would be no “Dunkirk Miracle”).  That evening, Gen. Dwight D Eisenhower handed in his resignation (those who knew him reported that he was a broken man).

The final blow came from German Panther Tanks which were well placed for D-day.







Although only boys, the troops of the 12th SS Panzer Division proved to be deadly fighters.



Scenes of the Disaster at D-day.








Allied POWs.




Following this disaster, the Allies placed all their hope in the Southern front in Italy and in the East with the Soviet Union.  However, this was soon to change with two significant events.
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Re: A Simple Issue of Metals
« Reply #2 on: December 17, 2011, 05:54:20 AM »
Roman Eagle Resurgent

Having devastated the D-day invasion, Hitler now decided to secure his Southern flank.  The newly re-equipped JG-27 and JG-53 along with KG-54 flush from their success over the beaches of Normandy were moved into the North of Italy (JG-26 remained in France supported by KG-51).  At the same time, at least one unit of the Aeronautica Nazionale Repubblicana (A.N.R) was also equipped with Me-262A-1as (training of pilots/ground-crew on the new jets had been taking place for some time).  On September 20, 1944, under the overall command of Generalfeldmarschall Albrecht von Kesselring they struck.  Supported by numerous Luftwaffe and A.N.R. conventional piston engined combat aircraft (including a number of Zerstörergeschwaden re-equipped with the new Dornier Do-335A heavy fighter - this having also been rushed into production by Speer) and numerous armoured and infantry divisions (including the 1st and12th SS Panzer Divisions – also fresh from their success in France), the combined German/Italian forces swept through Italy sending Allied forces reeling before them.  This was partly made possible by the Allies stripping of many Italian based units to make good losses suffered on D-day.  The reappearance of the Fallschirmjägers also caused problems for the Allies as groups of these landed behind Allied lines to capture key points and generally cause confusion.

ANR Me-262

[/IMG]



The new Do-335 made a useful addition to the Zerstörergeschwaden.






German and Italian Paratroopers.



Fallschirmjägers in Rome.



Panther Tank in Rome



In the sky, Me-262s (supported by small numbers of a new light jet fighter – the Heinkel He-162) once again ruled supreme.  By the end of October, virtually the whole of Italy was once again under Axis rule and Il Duce, Benito Mussolini, was back in Rome.  It was at this point that yet another blow fell upon the Allies.

Heinkel He-162s




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Re: A Simple Issue of Metals
« Reply #3 on: December 17, 2011, 05:54:49 AM »
Shock in the East

Up until this stage, despite numerous enticements from both sides, Turkey had remained stubbornly neutral.  However, following the events of the past year, this soon changed.  On October 29, 1944, the Turkish Government announced that it was annexing the island of Cyprus.  This action was openly supported by the Italian and German governments (a secret pact having been signed only days before).  As a result, both Britain and the United States declared war upon Turkey.  Furthermore, they convinced the USSR to do likewise.  Consequently, Turkey now found itself virtually surrounded.  However, help was at hand. 

As part of the secretly brokered agreement with Germany, approximately 50 Me-262 and 120 He-162 jets were already on their way to join the Türk Hava Kuvvetleri.  These would soon be joined by elements of JG-1 and JG-54 along with KG-53, all equipped with various versions of the Me-262 or He-162.  Not only did these forces secure Cyprus and more so Turkey from Allied attack, they also proved to be an ideal position to launch a deep attack in the Russian flank, thereby alleviating the pressure on Germany’s Eastern front.  And so ended 1944, a year of disaster for the Allies.  Even more was to come in 1945…

Türk Hava Kuvvetleri  He-162 and Me-262

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Re: A Simple Issue of Metals
« Reply #4 on: December 17, 2011, 05:55:13 AM »
Changes
1945 would begin with the Axis forces undergoing a number of significant changes.  To begin with, the Luftwaffe suddenly found itself in need of a new commander.  On the morning of January 1st 1945, Reichmarshall Hermann Goering had been found dead of what was believed to have been a massive overdose of barbiturates and alcohol (he was reportedly celebrating the new year a little too excessively following the successes of the last 12 months), though this was not reported to the general public.  In his place, Hitler promoted Generaloberst Robert Ritter von Greim to the rank of Generalfeldmarschall and placed him in charge of the Luftwaffe. 

Generalfeldmarschall Robert Ritter von Greim.



Von Greim immediately ordered a number of significant re-organisations to better position the Luftwaffe for the future battles.  This re-organisation was made possible by the massive losses inflicted upon the Allies over the previous months as well as by the incredible reorganisations of Germany’s war production by Speer.  To begin with, it was ordered that the Zerstörergeschwaden be re-equipped with the now dominant Me-262s.  This was unexpected given that many had only been operating the new Do-335 since the middle of 1944.  However, over the next 3 months, ZG-1, ZG-2, ZG-26, ZG-76 and ZG-101 would all hand over their Do-335s or Me-410s for Me-262s.  This change was able to occur quite rapidly as many of the Jagdgeschwaden already operating Me-262s simply handed their aircraft over (as they in turn converted to new aircraft).  The relatively new Do-335s and Me-410s as well as some Ta-152s were passed onto Allied nations including Italy, Romania, Croatia, and Turkey.  Dornier also found a new German customer in the form of the Kriegsmarine (discussed further below).

Zerstörergeschwaden  Me-262



Romanian Do-335



The hand over of the Me-262s by the Jagdgeschwaden was made possible by the introduction of two new, even more potent jet fighters – the Focke-Wulf Ta-183A-2 and Junkers Ju-289A-2.  These were single engined fighters powered by the new Heinkel He.S 011 turbojet.  This engine was more powerful than the Jumos of the Me-262 and even more reliable with an average life of 350hrs.  Later on, an even more powerful version would be introduced in the Ta-183B-1 and Ju-289B-1 variants.  With respect to armament, both new fighters were armed with 2 (the U-1 sub-variant of each could carry an extra pair of cannon) of the new Mauser MG 213C 30mm revolver cannon (these were also retro-fitted into many Me-262s) which had a much higher rate of fire than the previous MK 108s (fitted to the earlier developmental A-1 variants of each).  In the Ta-183A-2/R-2 or Ju-289A-2/R2 configuration these were also able to carry up to four of the new Ruhrstahl/Kramer X-4 air to air missiles; though these were typically only used in anti-bomber missions as they required the full attention of the pilot to be successful (they would however find favour with the Zerstörergeschwaden).  By mid-1945, virtually all the Jagdgeschwaden were re-equipped (or at least partially equipped) with either of the new fighters.  At that point, some were also provided to the Italian, Turkish, Finish and Spanish (see below for more details) forces.  In some cases, this was aided by a new initiative from Speer that actively encouraged the license production of various types by Germany’s closest Allies.  For example, the Me-262 and later Ta-183 began to be produced in Italy by Fabbrica Italiana Automobili Torino (FIAT) and Caproni-Reggiane as the Fiat G.60 Rondine and Re.2007 Spizaeto respectively, with engines for both built under license by Piaggio.  Similarly, the Ju-289A-2 was produced under license in Finland as the Valtion Lentokonetehdas VL Kotka (Eagle).  Similar deals were also arranged for Spain, Turkey and Romania and covered not only aircraft but also the Panther tank as well as various other weapons/components.  The He-162 however was largely phased out of production (though some continued to be produced under license by Bulgaria), having been found to be less than ideal when compared to the other types (a devastating use for some nearly completed airframes would be found later on – see Operation Tsunami).

Italian built Fiat G.60 Rondines





Ta-183 Fighters









Ju-289 Fighters












Ruhrstahl/Kramer X-4 air to air missiles



The new more powerful Heinkel He.S 011 turbojet



On the bomber front, Von Greim also ordered that all Kampfgeschwaden be re-equipped with new jet bombers (at the same time, production of the earlier piston engined stalwarts such as the He-111, He-177, Ju-88 and Ju-188 was ceased).  Whilst many would retain their Me-262A-2a and Me-262A-2a/U2 variants, most would eventually convert to the new Ar-234C-5 and He-343.  The Ar-234C-5 was a four engined version of the earlier Ar-234 (which would continue to be used in the reconnaissance role).  This version also introduced a second crew-member as a dedicated navigator/bomb-aimer.  The He-343 was an all new, four engined jet bomber powered by the new Heinkel He.S 011 turbojet and carrying a crew of three.  Some of each would also be eventually sold to Italy, Turkey and Spain.

The new Ar 234C-5 and He-343 bomber were even more powerful.








Also receiving attention as part of Von Greim’s reorganization was the Luftwaffe’s long ignored transport arm.  Though maybe not as exciting as the fighter or bomber arms, it had long been recognized that an effective means to rapidly transport forces and equipment throughout the now vast Reich was urgently required. Furthermore, it was recognized that the long suffering ‘Tante Ju’ Ju-52/3M was no longer up to the role.  Therefore new designs such as the Arado Ar-232B, Junkers Ju-252 and Messerschmitt Me-323 were given high priority.  They were also able to be improved due to the availability of higher power piston engines (such as the BMW 801) that were now available in greater numbers.  Thus equipped, the new transport arm would soon be an effective force able to transport men, equipment (including tanks and armoured vehicles in the BMW 801 powered Me-323F) and supplies wherever they were required.

The Luftwaffe’s long ignored transport arm also got new blood.








On the Allied side, 1945 also witnessed the first introduction of jets to mainstream operational units (some had been operated by specialist trials units in the later months of 1944).  Long awaited, the jets had been delayed following the destruction of the prototype Gloster E.28/39 during its first flight attempt on 15 May 1941.  The new Gloster Meteor F.1s, de Havilland Vampire Mk Is and Lockheed P-80As, first equipped units based in Great Britain before being deployed elsewhere.  This was due to the fact that it was feared that following the disaster of D-day, Hitler might try to capitalize with a second attempt to invade (though this wasn’t to be) and thus the greatest need for the new fighters was in Great Britain.  It was also hoped that the jets would be able to escort the new B-29 bombers that were just beginning to enter service with the Eighth Air Force, thus enabling a return to day bomber missions.

The loss of the prototype Gloster E.28/39 greatly set back Allied attempts to introduce jets.



Some new jets were starting to make an appearance though.





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Re: A Simple Issue of Metals
« Reply #5 on: December 17, 2011, 05:55:47 AM »
Unternehmen Kondor I & II

The first offensive operation of 1945 was yet another unexpected blow to the Allies.  It would also come as a surprise to one of its supposed participants.  On the evening of 20th Feb 1945, a large contingent of German and Turkish aircraft took off from bases in Crete and Cyprus.  These were a combination of Do-335s and a few He-343s carrying a combination of conventional bombs or PC 1400 “Fritz-X” guided bombs, escorted by Me-262s and Ta-183A-2s.  All carried drop tanks to enable them to fly a greater range.  The most significant element of the striking force though was a total of 12 Me-262 based Mistel combinations (these comprised a piloted Me-262 attached to an unpiloted version), which offered far more potent striking ability.  The target for this operation (known as Unternehmen (Operation) “Kondor I”) was the Egyptian port of Alexandria as well as a number of surrounding Allied airbases.

At the same time as Kondor I was taking place, a somewhat similar force of Italian, German, and what appeared to be Spanish, aircraft also took off from secret airstrips in central Spain (the aircraft had originated from bases in Italy and Southern France and were refuelled quickly at the strips which had been temporarily ‘captured’).  This force comprised of German and Italian Me-262s, Ta-183A-2s escorting a number of Ar-234C-5s and He-343s armed with a combination of PC 1400 “Fritz-X” guided bombs, Hs295 guided missiles as well as conventional bombs.  Also within the force were a total of 16 Ar-234C-5/E-377 Mistel combinations (the E-377 was a new dedicated Mistel design).  This potent force was targeted for the British naval base of Gibraltar.  This mission was known as “Kondor II”.

Both forces were also preceded by a small number of a new version of the Me-262 – the Me-262D-1.  This was a two seat version designed around a single, highly specialised mission – that of disrupting the radar defences of the enemy forces. To help the Me-262D-1’s undertake their mission, the second crew member operated a suite of radar detection/location sensors carried within the nose (at the expense of the cannon).   The new aircraft were widely nicknamed “Wilde Weisel” (due to their devious, ferocious mission) by their crews and were armed with special versions of the Ruhrstahl/Kramer X-4 fitted with a larger warhead and most importantly a special guidance system designed to home onto the emissions of Allied radar systems.  Their effect would be devastating as around mid-night at both Alexandria and Gibraltar, the Allied air-defence radars (both land based and upon ships) first detected a number of incoming aircraft and then in quick succession were rapidly destroyed.  The only radars to survive were those which were inactive at the time.  With their electronic eyes blinded, there was now limited ability for the defending forces to do much to defend themselves against the waves of strike aircraft following.  Soon, both docks and surrounding military facilities (including a number of air-strips) were burning furiously.  On the water large numbers of Allied naval ships were either sinking or in a perilous state.  In one single stroke, the Axis had gained almost total naval superiority in the Mediterranean – this would shortly also mean that most Allied convoys were unable to safely transit the area.

the Me-262D-1“Wilde Weisel” 



Port of Alexandria and Gibraltar before the attacks.




Some of the platforms that took part in the raid




As a consequence of the Kondor II raid, Spain suddenly also found itself an active participant in the war.  This was due to both Britain and the United States having declared war upon Spain following the discovery of a crashed Me-262 in Ejército del Aire (EdA) markings (this was in fact piloted by a Luftwaffe pilot as part of a plot by Hitler to finally force Franco to join the Axis, though that was unknown at the time) and the reports of the strike having launched from Spanish soil.  As a result, Spain now asked Germany to supply it with the latest in modern weapons in return for it “joining” the Axis.  This was satisfied by the transfer of some Me-262s, He-162s and Do-335s.  Later on a license was also allocated to Hispano Aviacion in Spain to produce the Ta-183A-2 as the Ha 1115.  Also part of this transfer were a number of Panther tanks (a factory to produce them under license was also established), as were a number of U-boats (these would operate from the soon to be captured port of Gibraltar (though this did not fall until a month later following a long siege).

Spanish  Ha 1115
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Re: A Simple Issue of Metals
« Reply #6 on: December 17, 2011, 05:56:53 AM »
The Desert Fox Returns

The primary purpose of the Kondor I & II operations was to ensure the un-impeded return of Axis forces to North Africa (Unternehmen Schakal (Jackal)).  Under the command of the Desert Fox himself, Generalfeldmarschall Erwin Rommel, two armoured divisions of the Heer armed with the latest Panther Ausf. H tanks (these were an improved design powered by a new diesel engine and were also equipped with rudimentary night vision equipment and a new rapid reload mechanism allowing a higher rate of fire) as well as the proven Tiger tanks, and 4 Italian divisions (1 armoured and 3 infantry) landed in Tunisia.  Strong supporting airpower was also supplied, in the form of the Me-262s of ZG-76 and the Ju-289A-2s (the Junkers fighter had been found to be generally better suited to operations from rough desert airstrips than its Focke-Wulf stable-mate) of JG-27 as well as Me-262s and Do-335s of the Règia Aeronautica (this having been reconstituted following Mussolini’s triumphant return to Rome).  This force would soon be joined by a substantial Spanish force landing in Morocco.

German forces being unload in Tunisia.



Me-262s  of the African campaign




Also making an appearance (at least for the first time in the west) were new specialised anti-tank versions of the Me-410 and Me-262 – the Me-410E-1/U4 and Me-262E-1 respectively.  Both of these replaced the standard cannon of the earlier versions with a single 50mm Mauser Mk214 cannon.  Initially, trialled in the anti-bomber role, these were soon re-tasked in the anti-tank role and were first introduced to combat by Schlachtgeschwader 2 (SG-2) under the command of Oberst Hans-Ulrich Rudel.  A single hit from the 50mm cannon was sufficient to cripple even the heaviest of enemy tanks.  In Africa, both aircraft types operated as part of SG-4.

The Me-410E-1/U4 and Me-262E-1 Tank Busters.








The first phase of this operation involved the re-occupying of the Islands of Sicily, Sardinia and Corsica.  In addition, this time Malta would also be occupied.  With the Allies in disarray (especially with Gibraltar out of action), these operations were able to take place quickly and with relative few casualties – the inability of the Allies to resupply them and thus the very real threat of starvation, was a major factor in the decisions of the garrisons on each to not resist for long.

With such overwhelming forces at hand, and with further fronts soon opened in both the west (Morocco) and east (Iraq – see further below), not to mention the devastation inflicted upon their forces in both Cairo and Gibraltar and the earlier substantial losses in the Italian campaign, the Commonwealth and American forces soon found themselves on the retreat once again.  A number of the new Allied jets were rushed to the theatre, though they weren’t able to make much of an impact in time.

Having learnt from his earlier campaign, Rommel insisted that a number of key requirements be put in place to guarantee the success of this second Afrika Korp campaign.  These included guaranteed access to a robust logistics re-supply system as well strong air-cover.  The latter was provided by the basing of JG-27, ZG-76 and SG-4 all in North Africa (along with numerous Règia Aeronautica air units as well). 

To ensure the former, the Luftwaffe and Règia Aeronautica based a number of air and naval units at various points throughout the Mediterranean (including upon the recently captured island of Malta) to patrol for Allied units that may attempt to strike at the supply lines.  Amongst these forces were a number of dedicated anti-submarine units using a combination of flying boats, converted bombers and a new two-seat variant of the Do-335, the Do-335C (more on this variant later).  In addition, the Règia Aeronautica introduced the first of a new type to replace its tired old Savoia Marchetti S.M.79s in the anti-shipping role.  This new aircraft, the Savoia-Marchetti S.M.96 Uragano, was based upon the German He-219 night fighter (a few of which had already entered Règia Aeronautica service) but was specially modified for use in the anti-shipping role.  In doing so, the night fighter equipment (radar, belly cannon pack, Schräge Musik installation etc) were removed.  The wing root cannon were retained (though they were upgraded to the new Mauser MG 213D - this was a development of the 213C entering service on the new fighters but modified to allow greater muzzle velocity) and the FuG 200 Hohentwiel sea-search radar set was fitted.  Perhaps the most noticeable external change though was the fitting of a remote-controlled tail gun to provide a degree of self protection.  Apart from the cannon, the typical armament was 1 – 2 torpedoes (later these would able to be replaced by the L.11 "Schneewittchen" winged torpedo and the new “Zitteroschen” supersonic anti-shipping missile) as well as up to 24 R4/M HL Panzerblitz 2 rockets under the outer wings.  The S.M.96 Uraganos were first used by 256a Squadriglia, 108° Gruppo and soon made their presence felt sinking Allied shipping throughout the Mediterranean.  Following their success, small numbers were also acquired by Spain and Croatia for use in the Mediterranean.  A version was even acquired by Germany (as the He-219D) for use in the Baltic and in Norway.

Drawings of the Savoia-Marchetti S.M.96 Uragano




Also, in March/April 1945, the Germans/Italians succeeded in laying a pipeline along the sea floor from Malta to Tunisia (a second, similar one was later laid from Spain to Morocco).  Once fully operational, these pipelines allowed the delivery of approximately, 5 million litres of oil per day to the forces in North Africa (they would also be added to later by a pipeline operating in reverse bringing oil from the oilfields of Africa) .  The last element of the logistics effort was the use of the re-equipped Luftwaffe and Règia Aeronautica transport units to pre-position (either through airdrops or, where possible by landing) caches of arms/fuel ahead of the advancing ground forces. 

Ar-232B shielded from the elements at a forward operating base – part of the  efforts to pre-position arms/supply caches for Rommel’s forces.



With all of these elements in place and with air and ground forces working in a coordinated manner, and with the ability of the new Panther Ausf. H tanks to fight at night, Rommel’s forces quickly found themselves at the Egyptian border.  It was like 1942 all over again, with worse to come.

He-343



 Rommel – back in Africa



German forces in North Africa.









On 27/28 May 1945, a group of disaffected army officers (the "free officers") led by Lieutenant Colonel Gamal Abdel Nasser overthrew King Farouk and demanded that the Allied forces leave Egypt.   They were aided in their coup d'état by the appearance out of virtually no where of the Egyptian Revolutionary Air Force (ERAF) flying a collection of Me-262s, Ju-289s and Do-335s.  In reality these were flown by Luftwaffe crews with hastily painted ERAF markings, and were used to fly a number of strikes against retreating Allied forces.  Nasser declared Egypt a republic on the 1st August and declared himself leader.  Germany, Italy, Spain and Turkey all immediately recognised the new government and offered to provide the nascent Egyptian Revolutionary Forces with military equipment in exchange for the right to base substantial “protection” forces in Egypt (especially around the strategically important canal area).

Lieutenant Colonel Gamal Abdel Nasser

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Re: A Simple Issue of Metals
« Reply #7 on: December 17, 2011, 05:57:27 AM »
An Unimaginable Event

With the recent reversals in the Mediterranean theatre, the RN aircraft carrier HMS Indefatigable and its escort were ordered to return from the Pacific.  It was hoped that its striking power would help remedy the impacts of the recent losses at Gibraltar and Cairo.  On the 18th March 1945, the Indefatigable passed through the Suez Canal.  However, unknown to the Allies, this passing was observed and the information was quickly radioed to the German High Command.

HMS Indefatigable in better days and passing through the Suez Canal .




On the afternoon of the 20th March a strike force of 16 Ar-234C-5s (half armed with PC 1400 “Fritz-X” guided bombs and half with L.11 gliding torpedoes), escorted by Turkish Me-262s, struck.   The carrier itself managed to avoid most of the weapons fired at it (the escorting destroyers weren’t so lucky), and was only struck once – unfortunately, this was by a torpedo at the stern.  This crippled the mighty ship’s rudder, thus leaving it a virtual ‘Sitting Duck’.  The stage was now set for one of the most remarkable operations of the entire war.

With both sides recognizing the importance of the crippled carrier a race was on.  The British had two options – either try to get the ship back to the relative safety of Cairo, or failing that, to scuttle it.  Following the losses of the previous months, the prospect of scuttling the relatively new carrier wasn’t the preferred option.

On the Axis side, at first the only perceived option was to send another strike force to sink it.  However, another option was soon put forward by the near legendary (indeed, he would be after this operation) Standartenführer Otto Skorzeny, who was then based in Crete.  What if the carrier could be captured?  Without, advising Berlin or Rome of their intentions, Skorzeny planned an operation in conjunction with the assistance of local Luftwaffe and Kreigsmarine leaders.
 
SS Standartenführer Otto Skorzeny



On the evening of the 22nd, a force of 13 Ar-234C-5s all armed with PC 1400 “Fritz-X” guided bombs and escorted by Me-262s and Ta-183A-2s attacked.  They had specific orders to only aim for the escorting ships.  Following them at wave top height were six Focke-Achgelis FA 223 Drache helicopters (these had been on the Island undergoing trials) carrying Skorzeny and a hand-picked raiding team.  As a result of its damaged state, the carrier wasn’t able to launch any aircraft to defend itself.  As the helicopters landed aboard the flight deck, an order no-one aboard a Royal Navy Carrier expected to hear was issued – “Prepare to repel boarders!”  Unfortunately, despite their valiant attempts at defence, seamen are no match for battle hardened kommandos.  After brief firefights (including the apparent use of poison gas canisters by some of the kommandos), the ship was tentatively under the control of Skorzeny and his men.  Their tenuous position was soon strengthened when pair of Kriegsmarine destroyers arrived carrying extra troops as well as seamen able to take over basic operation of the carrier.  Tow lines were soon attached and the ship put under tow towards Crete and then Italy.  To ensure the Allies weren’t able to sink their prize, continuous patrols of Me-262s and Ta-183s were flown overhead.

Focke-Achgelis FA 223 Drache helicopter – these were used by Standartenführer Otto Skorzeny to help capture the Indefatigable.



Once in an Italian port, the surviving crew was quickly removed and the ship inspected and repaired. It was soon decided to add it to the new Kreigsmarine Tragerflotten fleet (more details below) which included the recently completed Graf Zeppelin and soon to be completed Peter Strasser (both currently located in the Baltic).  Once repaired, the newly renamed Hindenburg joined the Italian carrier Aquila as part of the Mediterranean fleet.  The ship also provided German and Italian ship builders many ideas for new carrier designs which were also refined with the help of the Japanese (more below).
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Re: A Simple Issue of Metals
« Reply #8 on: December 17, 2011, 05:57:56 AM »
A Mesopotamian Venture

Two days after Rommel’s troops landed in Tunisia, a second Middle Eastern front was opened much further east.  Turkish troops, supported by a small contingent of German ‘advisors’ (equipped with Panther Ausf. H tanks), launched an invasion of Northern Iraq.  They were supported in this endeavour by Turkish Do-335s and Me-410s in the ground attack role as well as by THK-1 jets (locally produced Me-262A-1 under license by Türk Hava Kurumu (THK)).  Also involved were a small number of Luftwaffe Me-262E-1s operating in Turkish colours and some Me-262A-2a/U2s in Iraqi colours (much had been the case earlier in the war when Bf-110s of Sonerkommando Junck had operated briefly in Iraq).
 
”Iraqi” Ta-183s




The Turkish troops were able to quickly advance to capture the towns of Mosul, Arbil and Karkuk before halting.  Although their German advisors pushed for the advance to be continued to capture the whole of Iraq, the Turkish High Command stubbornly refused to go any further and instead started construction of a series of forts to defend their new possessions.  All was not lost though since despite their advancing no further, the effect upon the Allies was significant.  Fearing a strategic pincer manoeuvre, the Allies in North Africa were not able to mount a coordinated, focused defence against Rommel’s advancing forces to the West.
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Re: A Simple Issue of Metals
« Reply #9 on: December 17, 2011, 05:58:22 AM »
An Eastern Stalemate

Whilst the war in the West and South had been a series of defeats for the Allied forces, the war in the East had largely turned into a stalemate much in the form of the First World War.  Although the Soviet forces were for the most part significantly greater in overall numbers and of ever growing technological and tactical ability, they were never-the-less balanced by the re-vitalised technological superiority of the Axis forces (primarily German, Finnish, Bulgarian and Romanian).  Furthermore, with the German heartland (and its all important factories) no longer under sustained heavy bomber attack and thus much more able to provide significant quantities of the latest equipment and vital supplies, the Russian offensives of 1943/44 were able to be contained.  Kursk had still proved costly but with Soviet weapons production severely hampered (see below), they were unable to exploit the situation.

The Axis situation was aided greatly when in mid 1943, Unternehmen Eisenhammer (Iron Hammer) was successfully accomplished.  This was an aerial bombing operation against power generators near Moscow and Gorky in the Soviet Union. The raid destroyed ten turbines in water and steam power-plants near Moscow, Gorky, Tula, Stalinogorsk and under the Rybinsk Reservoir.  Also attacked were substations, transmission lines and factories. The attack succeeded in knocking out just over 80% of the power used by the Soviet defence industry. Only two smaller energy centres behind the Urals and in the Soviet Far East were left intact. At this time the Soviet Union had no turbine manufacturing capabilities and the only repair facility (in Leningrad) had been heavily damaged.  As such Soviet war production almost ground to a halt.

Luftwaffe preparations for Unternehmen Eisenhammer.



Throughout the first half of 1944, German reconnaissance aircraft (including the new Ar-234) had also been able to provide detailed information on Soviet force build-ups.  This was then used to ensure the most effective application of precision strikes by Axis forces – special emphasis being placed upon destroying the all important weapons depots, fuel stores and supporting re-supply lines (the attacks on these targets would force the Soviets to cancel their long planned summer offensive in mid 1944).  Ar-234 and Me-262 (both single and two seat variants) bombers were used to strike unimpeded at the deeper targets often using guided weapons.  Meanwhile large numbers of new piston engined fighters including Do-335s and Me-410s operating in both the ground attack and Zerstörer roles made their mark felt over the immediate frontline.  Supporting all of this were growing numbers of Me-262 and He-162 fighters of JG-5, JG-52 and JG-54 as well as small numbers of  supporting Finish, Romanian, Bulgarian jets.  These enabled the Axis to once again ensure air superiority over the battlefield.

Luftwaffe Me-262s in Russia.







As with the war in the West/South, 1945 started with that in the East effectively pausing for a couple of months whilst the opposing forces recovered from the previous 12 months of battle and used the time to re-equip.  Come spring, the Axis forces struck first.  First inn the North, a combined German/Finish force struck towards Murmansk.  By the end of May 1945, the all important northern port was under their control.  This had the effect of forcing all Allied aid to come via India in the South or across the Barents Straight and then across the whole of the Soviet Union.  Doing so effectively caused the Soviet forces to pause their own offensive which had been planned to strike at the centre of the battle front.

At approximately, the same time, events took a further significant, when Turkish and German forces launched a new offensive from the area east of the Black Sea.  This struck deep into the Soviet Union’s flank, quickly capturing the all-important oilfields of the Caucasus, thus depriving the Soviet forces of precious fuel (and correspondingly, providing Axis forces with even greater reserves).

Whilst the Eastern land war was largely stalled, that in the air continued as viciously as ever.  The Eastern Jagdgeschwaden of JG-5, JG-52 and JG-54 had all been re-equipped with the new Ta-183A-2 or Ju-289A-2.  Some of these were also supplied to Finland.  Also making an appearance (as previously mentioned) were new specialized anti-tank versions of the Me-410 and Me-262 – the Me-410E-1/U4 and  Me-262E-1.  These versions were first introduced to combat by SG-2 under the command of Oberst Hans-Ulrich Rudel.  A single hit from the 50mm cannon was sufficient to cripple even the heaviest of enemy tanks.  Using this new variant, Rudel increased his tally of Soviet Tanks beyond 800.  Also in July 1945 the Luftwaffe’s two top aces (Erich “Bubi” Hartmann and Gerhard "Gerd" Barkhorn) surpassed the 500 kills mark.

Oberst Hans-Ulrich Rudel



Me-410E-1/U4 Tank Busters




Me-262E-1Tank Busters




Erich “Bubi” Hartmann and Gerhard "Gerd" Barkhorn



The Soviets also introduced a number of new combat aircraft including the Lavochkin La-9 (including in the La-9R version which was fitted with a RD-1Kh3 liquid fuel rocket engine in the tail to help compete against the Luftwaffe’s jets) and Yakovlev Yak-3R (similar rocket fit).  Although these were indeed superb designs, they were simply outclassed.  In an attempt to counter the new jets the Soviets also introduced two mixed-power (propeller and thermojet) fighters – the Sukhoi Su-5 and Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-13.  However, these were only a stopgap until new Allied pure jets could be introduced. 

The first pure jet fighters entered Soviet service in late November 1945, when the first Lend-Lease shipment of de Havilland Vampire Mk Is (soon followed by a small number of Gloster Meteor F.1s and Lockheed P-80As) arrived via India and Siberia.  The first pure Soviet jets entered service shortly there-after.  These were the Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-9 and Yakovlev Yak-15.  Both used versions of the British/American engines produced under license.  However, despite exhibiting good general performance, they were still outclassed by the Axis pilots, if only because the latter had far longer experience in operating jets in combat.

Soviet Jet Fighters.


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Re: A Simple Issue of Metals
« Reply #10 on: December 17, 2011, 05:58:49 AM »
A New Year and a New Set of Faces

1946 began with a new set of political leaders.  In Great Britain, Churchill had been defeated in the 1945 election by Clement Attlee and the Labour Party.  Although there were many contributing reasons for this change, by far the greatest was Churchill’s refusal to take any responsibility for the disasters of the previous 18 months, especially that of D-Day.

Prime Minister Clement Attlee



In the United States of America, Franklin Roosevelt had been replaced as President by Harry Truman following the former’s death in late 1945.  However, by far the most significant change was to come in Germany.

President Harry Truman



On the night of the 3rd January 1946, following an evening briefing upon the latest developments in Africa by Rommel (who was home on leave), the Fuhrer complained of a headache and then collapsed.  Following attendance by his doctor, it was believed that he had suffered a stroke and was in a coma.  In the days that followed, a great deal of political manoeuvring took place to find someone to temporarily take his place.  In the end, the surprise winner turned out to be Albert Speer.  This was largely brought about by the support of Speer by the heads of the Heer, Kriegsmarine and Luftwaffe (all who were indebted to him for ensuring their various arms were kept supplied with the latest weapons).  In a deft political move, Speer refused to take the title of Fuhrer (claiming that there was only ever one Fuhrer, who would continue the role when he recovered), instead taking on the position of temporary Reichskanzler (Chancellor).

Reichskanzler Albert Speer



Speer was extremely popular with the military not only because of the new weapons he gave them, but also because he was willing to see what things were like on the frontline, firsthand



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Re: A Simple Issue of Metals
« Reply #11 on: December 17, 2011, 05:59:19 AM »
A Blizzard of Death

Reichskanzler Speer quickly set to work.  Believing that the war in the East had gone on long enough, he ordered that plans be drawn up for a new grand offensive.  This would include an old weapon being re-introduced in a new terrifying form.

On 15th February, Unternehmen Schneesturm (Blizzard) was launched.  This involved three separate prongs.  In the North, a combined German/Finish force advanced in a south easterly direction towards Leningrad and Moscow; in the Centre, a combined German/Bulgarian/Romanian/Italian force advanced east towards Moscow; in the South, a combined German/Turkish force advanced northerly towards Stalingrad.  As part of the offensive, the rear areas (to a depth of 50 – 100km) behind the Soviet front lines were specifically targeted.  This was part of a move to cut the troops off from their support.  The weapons used were a series of new nerve gasses (Tabun, Sarin and Soman) which were initially delivered by way of a combination of Von Braun’s A-4 rockets, as well as various modified variants of the Fi-103 pulse jet cruise missile launched either from mobile ramps or carried by some jet bombers (primarily the Ar-234C).  Also used heavily were various Mistel combinations.  The effect was devastating, with hundreds of thousands (if not millions – the exact number was never determined) killed in a matter of hours. 

Some of the initial nerve gas barrages.





German and axis Forces found themselves advancing through areas with no human life.



In the weeks following these attacks, the Axis forces advanced hundreds of kilometres – it was 1941 all over again.  Just had been the case in North Africa the previous year, the Axis forces made great use of night vision equipment to enable round-the-clock operations and close coordination between air and ground forces (including airdropping/landing of supplies to advancing forces) to ensure the pressure was never let off the Soviet forces.  What’s more, the detailed intelligence gained by the use of aircraft such as the Ar-234 allowed quite precise attacks on key Soviet logistics nodes and the like.  By the end of March, they were once again approaching the outskirts of Moscow.  At this point a coup d'état led by Marshal Georgy Zhukov arrested Stalin. 

The new night vision equipment allowed almost constant 24hr operations.




German forces advancing.









The coup leaders immediately sent delegations to the advancing forces asking for a ceasefire.  Surprisingly (even to Zhukov who had asked for it), Speer accepted the plea and ordered the Axis advance to halt (it was later revealed that the advancing forces had advanced so quickly, that they were becoming difficult to re-supply - even with the new stronger Luftwaffe Transport arm - not to mention exhausted).  Following weeks of negotiations, at the end of April it was announced that all hostilities in the east would cease.  In Berlin, Speer was hailed a hero having finally ended the costly war with the Soviets. 

Marshal Georgy Zhukov signs ceasefire documents.



An exhausted and relieved Speer upon receiving the news of the Soviet ceasefire approach.



As part of the ceasefire conditions, a 50km Demilitarised zone was established between the opposing forces (this was rigorously patrolled to ensure no forces were moved into it).  On the Axis side, this was further added to by the construction of a series of strong defence fortifications.  Behind these strong forces composing primarily Finish, Turkish, Bulgarian, Hungarian and German forces were kept ready (although the Germans began slowly rotating many their forces back to the West and Germany for rest and re-equipping).

Some of the new fortifications on the Demilitarised zone.






Meanwhile in what remained of the Soviet Union, civil war broke out as Communist forces under the command of one Leonid Ilyich Brezhnev, a political commissar of the 18th Army, rose up against the Coup leaders.  This was almost a replay in reverse of the events that followed the original Bolshevik revolution approximately a quarter of a century before.  This suited the Axis as whilst the Soviets/Russians were fighting themselves, it would be unlikely that a viable force would arise to threaten them (at least within the foreseeable future).  To ensure, the civil war continued, the Axis selectively supplied arms (though never the most modern) to either side.

Leonid Ilyich Brezhnev.
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Re: A Simple Issue of Metals
« Reply #12 on: December 17, 2011, 05:59:53 AM »
Lessons Learnt

In early 1944, following analysis of reports coming from the Pacific theatre and the use of aircraft carriers by both the Japanese and Americans, Hitler issued a decree ordering the recommencement of full development of a Kriegsmarine aircraft carrier capability.  The already launched Graf Zeppelin was quickly completed with training of crews (both ship and aircrew) beginning in April.  Approximately 10 months later, its sister ship the Peter Strasser was also launched (it wouldn’t actually be fully fitted out until 1945 though).  These would be joined in late 1945 by the converted heavy cruiser Seydlitz as well as the captured Hindenburg in late 1945/early 1946 (see earlier).  Later in 1947, the first of three new Extremgrosseflugzeugtrager (70000 tonnes) of the ‘Germania’ class were also launched.

The Graf Zeppelin




Peter Strasser during construction and launch




Under new ownership - the Hindenburg



To assist in the rapid development of the necessary skills in operating a carrier, a contingent of Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) seamen and airmen were brought from Japan.  In exchange, Germany provided 4 complete Me-262s (2 single seat fighter variants, 1 dual seat trainer and 1 dual seat Me-262A-2a/U2 variant) as well as a single Ar-234 bomber and associated engines, along with complete access to all the plans to build them under license.

As far as aircraft for the new carriers, initially this was provided in the form of redundant (thanks to the successful new Me-262s) Fw-190T-1 (fighter) and T-2 (strike) aircraft (based upon the Fw-190A-8 and F-8 respectively).  In early 1945 though, following the death of Goering, a new closer relationship was able to form between the Kriegsmarine and the Luftwaffe.  As a result of this, access to new jet aircraft was made possible for the Kriegsmarine.  A new requirement for a shipboard jet fighter was quickly issued.  In February, the new Me-300 fighter was selected (the first versions would enter service at the end of May thanks to an accelerated development program).  This was based upon Messerschmitt’s original P.1101 competitor to the Ta-183/Ju-289.  For the Kriegsmarine requirement, it was revamped with stronger landing gear, arrestor hook and other naval equipment.  By far the most significant change though was the fitting of an in-flight adjustable, variable sweep wing (the original P.1101 also had a variable sweep wing, though this was only able to be adjusted on the ground).  This feature enabled the Me-300 to have a much better landing and take-off abilities from the carriers whilst still retaining excellent high speed abilities when fighting.  With respect to armament, the Me-300 copied the two Mauser MG 213C 30mm revolver cannon of the Ta-183/Ju-289.

The Me-300





The other main aircraft operating from the new carriers was the Do-335C anti-submarine/anti-shipping aircraft.  This was based upon the earlier Do-335A-6 two seat variant, but was specially adapted for carrier operations.  This included the fitting of stronger landing gear, corrosion resistant materials, and arresting hook (and associated stronger fuselage).  With respect to equipment fit, the Do-335C removed any wing cannon (though it did retain those in the nose), and added a surface search radar as well as a rudimentary magnetic anomaly detector (MAD) - fitted in the wing-tip.  It was also able to carry a small number of radio sonobuoys in its internal weapon’s bay.  All of these systems were operated by the second crew-member.  With respect to armament, the Do-335C usually carried either a single torpedo or a pair of depth charges.  The Do-335C was also often used in the reconnaissance role thanks to its long range which was able to be extended even further through the carriage of both external tanks, an extra tank in the weapon’s bay, as well as by shutting down one of its engine in flight.

The Do-335C




Following the operation to capture the HMS Indefatigable, each carrier also received two Focke Achgelis Fa 223 Drache helicopters.  These were used to transport items to and from the carriers as well as to rescue any pilots that may need to ditch nearby.

In keeping with their growing practice of aligning their weapon systems, the Regia Marina also equipped its new carriers (Aquila and Sparviero) with a similar mix of aircraft.

Regia Marina carrier Aquila

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Re: A Simple Issue of Metals
« Reply #13 on: December 17, 2011, 06:00:26 AM »
Atlantic Samurai

In early 1945, as part of their agreement to help train German and Italian navies in the operation of modern aircraft carriers, the Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) requested 120 of the new Me-300 naval jet fighters.  Rather than build them under license (they were urgently required to help counter the American forces in the Pacific), the IJN decided to send the new super carrier IJN Shinano to collect them.  The Shinano had narrowly escaped loss in November 1944 when a US Submarine (the USS Archer-Fish) which was preparing to fire upon her, struck a mine and was destroyed. After that close call, the IJN had kept her in port whilst arguing how best to use her – the prospect of new jet fighters able to beat anything the Allies had finally tipped the balance.

The super carrier IJN Shinano



It was intended that having collected the new aircraft, the crews could train in their use on the return voyage and thus be able to strike immediately upon their return to the Pacific.  Escorting the Shinano was its sister battleship (the Shinano having originally been laid as the third Yamato class battleship) the IJN Musashi.  To avoid Allied detection, the pair traveled at high speed (and in complete radio silence) deep into the Pacific and then down into the Antarctic before coming north again to enter the Mediterranean on the 16th July 1945. (As an aside, so impressed were they with the size and potential of the Shinano, the Kriegsmarine immediately requested a similar sized design from the Blohm + Voss Shipyard in Hamburg – this would eventually result in three Extremgrosseflugzeugtrager of the ‘Germania’ class).

IJN Musashi



Once in a safe Italian port, the crew of the Shinano and Musashi received new orders.  Instead of returning immediately to Japan, the ships were to be the core of a new daring attack against the Allies – this would soon be known as Operation Tsunami.  This operation was to be the first combined operation by the main Axis powers and involved not only the Shinano and Musashi, but also the Kriegsmarine’s new carrier the Peter Strasser escorted by the battleship Tirpitz, Panzerschiffe Lützow and a pair of Narvik class destroyers.  From Italy the Regia Marina’s carrier Aquila escorted by the battleship Vittorio Veneto (re-captured at Malta), light cruiser Luigi Di Savoia Duca Degli Abruzzi and two Soldati class destroyers as well as two transport ships.  They were also joined by five Spanish transport ships.

Some of the participants of Operation Tsunami






This force was divided into two fleets.  In the north (setting sail from the Baltic) was the Peter Strasser/Tirpitz battle group (they were able to escape detection thanks to a strong rain depression that covered most of the North Sea for days, as well as by strong German fighter sweeps that prevented any Allied reporting of their presence). 

On the afternoon of the 17th August, the first part of Operation Tsunami was launched.  This was targeted at the main Royal Navy base at Scapa Flow.  The action began with the impact of 13 A-4B rockets launched from bases in Norway.  Almost immediately following their impact, a wave of 18 Me-262 based Mistel combinations followed closely by a mixed fleet of approximately 40 He-343s and Ar-234s carrying a mixture of PC 1400 “Fritz-X” guided bombs and Hs295 guided missiles (all launched from Norway).  Escorting these were a large number of Me-262s fighters fitted with drop tanks for extended range.  At the same time, a wave of approximately 10 Do-335Cs armed with torpedoes escorted by 30 Me-300s screamed in from the west.  In the air above Scapa Flow, a large battle began as whatever Allied fighters were in the area were rushed to try to prevent a catastrophe.  This included some new Westland Wyvern TF.Mk 4 turbo-prop fighters that had been being prepared to join their new carrier as well as a number of de Havilland Vampire Mk Is and Gloster Meteor F.1s.  During the next 10 minutes the opposing fighters duelled as the naval base was in flames from blazing ships and docks.  The following morning, it was discovered that 2 escort carriers (the HMS Emperor and the HMS Hunter) as well as the battleship HMS Duke of York and a number of smaller vessels had been sunk.  Most painful of all though was the loss of the new aircraft carrier HMS Glory.  However, even more devastating was the fact that the surrounding docks had been severely damaged thus preventing their use for many months.

Following the strike, rather than returning to port, the Peter Strasser/Tirpitz battle group continued into the North Atlantic towards a new target - Iceland.  As they approached the Peter Strasser launched a strike by its remaining Me-300s and Do-335s armed with R4M rockets and conventional bombs.  They came in low and fast from the sea, popping up only when they arrived at Keflavík.  Here they managed to capture dozens of transports and maritime patrol aircraft on the ground as well as a number of B-29 bombers being ferried to Great Britain.  The mission wasn’t to destroy the airstrip though, only to cause enough damage to prevent aircraft from taking off – the main strike was to follow.  Approximately 5 hours after the air-raid, the Tripitz and Lützow came into range of Keflavík.  They quickly commenced a 30 minute bombardment. The result was substantial devastation – so much so that the base would be completely out of action for months.  However at this point, rather than land any forces to capture the base, the battlegroup turned south in a sweeping arc down to the Azores.  Whilst it was hoped to catch a convoy, this was not to be (although a single oil tanker was discovered and quickly sunk).

Tirpitz opening fire upon Keflavík



To the destruction at Scapa Flow and Keflavík was added a new element.  To the South (having set sail from the Mediterranean under strong air cover) the combined Italian/Japanese/Spanish fleet first struck at the Azores.  Their mission was to eject the British/American forces based there and to capture the islands for use as a base for interdiction of Allied convoys.  The action first involved the Aquila launching a strike of Do-335Cs armed with conventional bombs escorted by Me-300 fighters (some of which also carried unguided rockets).  Following this, the Vittorio Veneto and Luigi Di Savoia Duca Degli Abruzzi closed to within range and conducted a bombardment.  This covered the approach of 20 Ju-290 transports, each towing a single Me-321 glider (these being launched from the Spanish controlled Islas Canarias).  Half the gliders were loaded with 130 Fallschirmjägers each whilst the remainder carried a mix of Aufklaerer 38D light armoured vehicles armed with either 20mm or 75mm main guns.  Concurrently, 16 (2 each from the transports and 2 from the Aquila) Focke-Achgelis FA 223 Drache helicopters carrying the initial wave of Spanish Marines to capture the key airbase at Lajes Field also lifted off.  Following 8 more sorties by the Draches (during which five were lost) and supporting strikes by the Vittorio Veneto and Luigi Di Savoia Duca Degli Abruzzi as well as more air strikes by the Aquila’s Me-300s and Do-335Cs, the Marines/Fallschirmjägers were able to report that the air strip was under their tentative control.  Having done so, the first waves of Me-323 and Ju-252 started to land (they had already been dispatched in expectation of this) offloading more Spanish (plus some Italian) troops as well as equipment.  Over the next 2 weeks, small pockets of British and American troops continued to resist, but within a month, the first new Ju-390A-2 Maritime Patrol Aircraft of KG 40 would land and begin to conduct operations.  Likewise Kriegsmarine and Regia Marina U-boats/submarines (mainly of the type XXI ‘Elektro’ boat type) soon began using the islands as a staging base for operations in the north and south Atlantic.

Ju-390A-2 Maritime Patrol Aircraft




Whilst the invasion of the Azores took place, the Shinano and Musashi sped to the west, to carry out their part of the operation.  For its part the Shinano carried 100 He-162 jets specially modified for this operation as well as a small contingent of 10 Me-300 fighters and four Do-335Cs.  The He-162s had their cannon and most equipment removed so as to enable them to carry as much explosive as possible.  To help them launch, each also was fitted with a pair of rocket boosters.  Piloting the He-162s was a special contingent of Japanese pilots flown to Europe especially for this operation.  They would only be flying a single mission though – this was to be a Kamikaze mission!  Once within range, the Shinano launched the He-162s in three waves (each led by a Do-335C for navigation).  Their target was the USN naval base at Norfolk, Virginia.  At approximately 9:05 am in the morning, the first wave of He-162s screamed in at low level.  Before the defences could begin to fire, they began to strike at the ships in port as well as the surrounding facilities.  Over the next hour, the second and third waves also struck (the second wave climbed to altitude before diving down in near vertical diving attacks).  Despite shooting down almost a quarter of the attacking jets, the losses were significant with 3 Essex class carriers (the USS Wasp, USS Ticonderoga and USS Antietam) as well as 2 escort carriers (the USS Sangamon and HMS Stalker), the battleship USS Texas and numerous smaller vessels as well as all important transport ships and tankers lost.  Furthermore, the surrounding docklands and warehouses were left ablaze.

He-162 as used during Operation Tsunami



Photo during the Norfolk attack



Having launched its strike, the Shinano turned and fled at maximum speed back to the relative safety of the Azores.  Meanwhile, the Musashi turned south to undertake the final part of the operation.  After steaming at maximum speed (and a not–insubstantial dose of luck), she arrived at her intended target – the Western coast of Panama.  The target was the Panama Canal and specifically, the Gatún locks (it was also to destroy any shipping in the area, though the Canal itself was the primary target).  At 7pm in the evening of the 22nd, the Musashi arrived within range and started its bombardment.  After an hour, the Gatún locks were completely destroyed, thus forcing shipping to once again travel between the Pacific and Atlantic oceans via the long arduous trip around the bottom of South America.

The last view of the IJN Musashi as she headed towards Panama



Having executed its primary mission, the great ship now found itself under attack as aircraft rushed to the area - having been severely wounded during the previous few days, the United States military wanted revenge.  However, luck was still on the Musashi’s side as the darkness prevented most from successfully conducting their attacks.  The next morning however, things would change.  In a battle lasting 45 minutes, the Musashi fought off wave after wave of attacking aircraft including everything from single engined fighters through to B-29 heavy bombers.  Finally, at 6:30 in the morning, the battle ended when after having been straddled by a load of bombs from a B-29, the great ship suddenly rolled on its side and exploded – there were no survivors.

Scenes from the attacks on the Musashi including the final death.







Overall, Operation Tsunami had been an outstanding success resulting in destruction well beyond the hopes of its architects.  In one stroke, the Axis had largely crippled the Allies’ Atlantic fleet, sinking a total of 4 major fleet carriers, 4 escort carriers, 2 battleships as well as a significant number of support vessels and transports.  Furthermore, the Allies’ two main naval bases had been substantially damaged.  On top of this, a new mid-Atlantic staging post for naval ships and long range patrol aircraft had been established whilst the Allies’ equivalent at Keflavík was removed as a threat for the immediate future.  Finally, the Panama Canal had been rendered inoperable thus causing major delays in the transfer of Allied ships between the Pacific and Atlantic theatres.  All of this at the cost of a single battleship and a modest number of combat aircraft (not including the Kamikazes).
« Last Edit: March 10, 2018, 04:38:50 AM by GTX_Admin »
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Offline GTX_Admin

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Re: A Simple Issue of Metals
« Reply #14 on: December 17, 2011, 06:00:58 AM »
An Ally is Lost at Reims

By mid 1945, the US Eighth Air Force had largely replaced its B-17s and B-24s with the all new B-29 and B-32.  Some of these had also been acquired by RAF Bomber Command (which, along with new Avro Lincolns, had largely replaced the Avro Lancaster and Handley Page Halifax).  However, despite the new bombers’ performance, it was still necessary for attacks to be conducted at night.  This was to avoid the formidable air defences of the Reich (which included not only the earlier Me-262As, Ta-183A and Ju-289As, but also new Enzian and Wasserfall Surface to Air Missiles (SAMs) as well as an improved variant of the Me-262 (the Me-262C) fitted with a rocket booster for rapid climb. 

Some of the new weapons of the US Eighth Air Force and RAF Bomber Command






However, even at night, the bombers weren’t safe.  Besides the new SAMs, the Luftwaffe had also introduced new night fighters.  These included the Me-262B-2 (a stretched two seat variant of the Me-262 fitted with a nose radar), the Ar-234P (this was a two or three seat (depending upon specific variant) night-fighter version of the Ar-234 bomber) and soon to enter service, the Horten Ho-229 flying wing.

The opposition - some of the new jet night fighters




However, despite these obstacles, there had been promising developments on the Allied side.  On July 16, 1945, a most significant development had taken place in the United States.  Under the guise of the Manhattan Project, the first nuclear/atomic device, called "Gadget," had been successfully detonated during the "Trinity" test near Alamogordo, New Mexico.  It was now hoped that this weapon might provide the means to turn the war back in the Allied favour.

In preparation of this new weapon becoming available, the United States Army Air Forces had created a special unit – the 509th Composite Group (because the flying squadrons of the group consisted of both bomber and transport aircraft, the group was designated as a "composite" rather than a "bombardment" unit) commanded by Colonel Paul W. Tibbets.   The 509th CG was equipped with a special version of the new B-29.  These were referred to as “Silverplate” airplanes and had extensive bomb bay modifications and a "weaponeer" (a new crew position, in the cockpit with a panel to monitor the release and detonation of the bomb during the actual combat drops) station installed.  Perhaps most significant, these aircraft also had weight reductions incorporated to enable them to carry the new atomic bombs whilst still retaining acceptable performance – this was  accomplished by removal of all gun turrets (except that in the tail) and armour plating.

One week after the "Trinity" test, the 509th CG arrived in Southern England.  Shortly thereafter, their first atomic weapon also arrived.  The first U.S. nuclear attack mission was launched on the night of August 6, 1945. The B-29 “Enola Gay” was piloted by Colonel Tibbets.  The target selected was Frankfurt, the fifth-largest city in Germany.  It was planned that the Enola Gay would fly as part of a standard attack on Mannheim, before breaking off towards Frankfurt.  The course planned for the night took the bombers over the North of France towards Nancy, before turning north to attack Germany from the south west.  After bombing, the aircraft would turn west and return directly towards England.

Last official photo of the B-29 Enola Gay as it left on its fateful mission to Frankfurt



At first everything went to plan with the Enola Gay entering the bomber stream as just another B-29.  However once over France, Luftwaffe night fighters entered the stream and began to take a toll.  Flying without gun turrets or armour, the Silverplate Enola Gay was especially at risk.  As the bomber came towards the city of Reims, it was spotted by an Arado Ar-234P-5 of Nachtjagdgeschwader 4.  Unseen by the crew of the Enola Gay, the Ar-234P-5 quickly formatted below.  It then opened fire with its 30mm Schräge Musik installation.  The effect was devastating as the starboard wing was almost torn apart.  The stricken bomber tumbled towards earth as its crew struggled to bale out.  Unfortunately, their attempts would be in vain since the "Little Boy" Atomic bomb carried had already been armed.  Despite safety measures to prevent just such an event, as the Enola Gay crashed on the outskirts of Reims, night suddenly became day as the “Little Boy” detonated.

In the days that followed, confusion reigned as all sides struggled to come to terms with what had happened.  At first, the Allies denied that they had any part.  Later, believing they could capitalize upon the bombing, they stated that they were responsible and that more would follow – to which the Germans replied that they would also shoot them down.  However, the greatest reaction was from the people of France.  Up until now France had been an occupied country awaiting liberation by the Allies.  However, following the destruction of Reims and the statements of the Allies (and the realization that they would stop at nothing to win), many French began to wonder if they would be better placed to once again enter the war (this view was also influenced by the fact that the Germans were apparently winning the war – why not be on the ‘winning’ side?).  As reports (and more so pictures) came out from Reims, this belief, fuelled by the outrage at what had taken place and careful grooming by German news reports, only became greater.  This was capitalized by the Germans, who now offered France full membership of the Reich (now officially referred to as the Pan-Europäischer Reich (Pan European Reich or PER)) rather than occupation.  The result was that on the 20th August, France declared war on Great Britain and the United States.  To help equip the French, the Germans immediately transferred a number of Me-262s, Ta-183s and Ju-289s to French control.  At the same time, French factories began to tool up to produce their own variants as the Sud-Ouest SO 7000, Morane-Saulnier MS 500 and Arsenal VG-64 respectively.

Scenes of the ruins at Reims.






In a final blow to the Allies’ hopes and as a direct result of the political fallout from the destruction of Reims, Truman ordered that all planned use of the new atomic weapon be halted.  The loss of an important ally (especially one they were supposed to be liberating) along with the public outrage (which had spread to their own populations) was simply too great a cost to bear.  However, the generals did have a minor victory.  Rather than abandon the atomic bomb altogether, it was instead ordered that the weapon be redesigned to ensure such an accidental detonation would be impossible.

French Morane-Saulnier MS 500 

« Last Edit: March 10, 2018, 04:40:53 AM by GTX_Admin »
All hail the God of Frustration!!!