Author Topic: Rusty's Naval/Military History thread  (Read 57643 times)

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Offline Rusty Edge

Re: Rusty's Naval/Military History thread
« Reply #15 on: May 03, 2014, 05:52:10 AM »
from LIFE magazine-AERIAL GUNNERS
Protection they provide is vital to success of long-range bombing


Today, a thousand miles or more from their bases, far beyond the range of pursuit plane protection, the heavy bombers of the US Army Air Forces fly out to drop their loads deep into enemy territory. As they approach their targets, the commander's voice is heard over the interphone: "Enemy fighters coming up- gunners man your guns."

Tucked in the tail of every ship, a man picked for his smallness, pulls back his arming lever with a snap. Up front, a radio operator slips off his headset, opens a trap door and eases himself down into the belly turret. The engineer takes a last quick look at his motor instruments, then hunches his way up to where twin .50s in a glass dome cover the sky. In the waist, a panel on either side slides back and the 300-miles-an-hour wind whips the coveralls of the gunners ready there.

The commander signals his wing men up or down. The enemy, diving to attack, meets the concentrated cross fire of a dozen guns. Those that survive do not attack again. Confident in it's self-protection, the bomber formation goes on to it's target.

On this ability for self-protection U.S. long range bombing is built. Each bomber, alone, must be able to hold it's own against enemy fighters. Each formation must be able to lay down a deadly and impenetrable screen of fire. Everything depends upon the ability of one special  class of men- the aerial gunners. They have to be good or they are dead, and aerial bombardment is dead with them.

But the five men who handle the guns in a bomber crew of nine are trained as mechanics, radio operators, cameramen. Many of them have never fired a gun. In order to make them first-rate gunners, the Air Forces give them the toughest five weeks of training in the Army.

At one of three special schools they learn their deadly business. Taught precision on miniature ranges with .22 rifles, they learn to lead and swing while shooting trap and skeet. They fire machine guns on the ground and in the air, find out the tricks of the turrets. When their course is finished, they are assigned to operational training units ready for combat. On these pages LIFE shows the highlights of gunnery school in Las Vegas, NV.

*A novice gunner squints through his ring sight.

*At night, the range at Las Vegas is lit by tracers as student gunners follow the moving targets.

*An instructor stands behind each man as he fires, coaches him on the fine points of lead and swing.

*Power turret's two .50-cal guns track the target (level streak right) in precise, short bursts.

*Plane recognition, vital to gunners is taught in classrooms. Knowing the plane, gunner can judge his range by it's size in the ring sight and knows when to fire.

*This shooting gallery has four fast moving rows of little plane silhouettes. The students must be able to mow down all four with toy guns that squirt streams of pellets.

*Toughest shooting in the school is this super-skeet. Armed with shotguns, men ride on trucks down a road and fire at unexpected clay pigeons that come from anywhere.

*Near the end of their course the gunners learn how to operate power turrets, which have more elaborate sights than plain guns. Type above is used in B-24's and B-26's.

* At 40 miles an hour this cloth target travels a triangular course around the range. Bullets are painted and the number of hits is scored by counting different colored holes.

*Final week at gunnery school is spent in the air firing at towed targets. This gunner (rear) is putting in a new belt of ammunition as he comes up along the sleeve.








Offline JarlWolf

Re: Rusty's Naval/Military History thread
« Reply #16 on: May 03, 2014, 06:34:40 AM »
Given I grew up during this time I starkly remember how things were reported back then too; albiet I was fairly young... as a child growing up I can tell you that the fighting in my home city was, while I was away from most of it, was a tense struggle over streets and buildings. It was a fight where you had to rely on the cover of your surroundings quite a bit, and one notable thing I do remember is how structurally sound, despite all of the bombing, the buildings had, all the offices and apartments. The structures in Volgograd were all made of reinforced concrete, and even though the Germans and Romanians all had bombing runs of their own, Luftwaffe fighters constantly bombing targets and specified artillery runs slamming their payloads into fortified positions (You could hear the drone of the strikes constantly, and whenever you heard the distant roar of bombers and stuka you got into the lower reaches of the buildings and huddled.) and despite all of that I still remember that they withstood that.

It gave you sense of hope seeing some of the taller buildings, as burned out as some of them were, still standing strong and proud with our soldiers manning guns and artillery pieces setup in them. Because if something that withstood so much pain and suffering can still standing strong, it made you think we can outlast and survive this.

As a child growing up in wartime I can tell you, at least from a Soviet perspective, that air raids were actually fairly organized in terms of how you responded. You didn't panic or become overly fearful; you simply followed the lead of whoever your group leader was, got into position and waited it out. And you kept close to everyone so everyone was accounted; no one strayed or went off on themselves. We usually all sat there in silence, waiting and trying to listen in either to the group leaders or if any officers or soldiers were with us; or if we had a radio working we would listen in on the reports so we knew it was safe again. It was only scary the first times you heard it, then after the months had passed you gotten used to it. At first you just kept to your group and huddled in fear, especially younger kids like me at the time, we used to just clutch something and shake. Eventually though, you just zoned out. Blocked out the noise.


"The chains of slavery are not eternal."

Offline Rusty Edge

Re: Rusty's Naval/Military History thread
« Reply #17 on: May 03, 2014, 03:46:51 PM »
Cool.

Those Corsairs were fine-looking aircraft - that was a non-trivial portion of the show's appeal.

Yes. That's an interesting aspect of aircraft design. When a company fails to secure a contract, they go back to the drawing board. Vought had an obsolete design that wouldn't sell.
So they worked on it. They designed the plane for the new larger engine. It was supposed to be a carrier plane, but the original landing gear wasn't heavy enough to take the punishment. So they were given to the marines and operated from islands.

It used the same engine that went into the Thunderbolts ( which mounted eight .50s ) used in Europe. To make the most of the extra power, both used bigger propellers, which required more ground clearance. Vought solved the problem with the cool looking cantilevered wing design. Republic didn't address it at first, so the pilots had to be very careful on take-off, not to raise the tail too quickly, or the prop would be vacuuming gravel and debris off of the runway and towards the engine. Eventually they had to devise a telescopic landing gear.

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Re: Rusty's Naval/Military History thread
« Reply #18 on: May 03, 2014, 03:53:11 PM »
There is a beauty to a well-made thing - I believe that's a  big part of the appeal of guns and weapons of war, even to peaceful fellows like us, that the ladies don't get.  We can deplore the purpose of guns, but still find them beautiful.

Offline Rusty Edge

Re: Rusty's Naval/Military History thread
« Reply #19 on: May 03, 2014, 03:58:10 PM »
It gave you sense of hope seeing some of the taller buildings, as burned out as some of them were, still standing strong and proud with our soldiers manning guns and artillery pieces setup in them. Because if something that withstood so much pain and suffering can still standing strong, it made you think we can outlast and survive this.

Thanks for sharing, JarlWolf. I often wondered how non-religious people endured that horror that nobody should have to endure.

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Re: Rusty's Naval/Military History thread
« Reply #20 on: May 03, 2014, 06:14:28 PM »

Offline JarlWolf

Re: Rusty's Naval/Military History thread
« Reply #21 on: May 03, 2014, 06:48:15 PM »
Thanks for sharing, JarlWolf. I often wondered how non-religious people endured that horror that nobody should have to endure.


One still needs to put faith in something to get through things. Just its not always in a god; sometimes its in people or something that inspires hope.


On another note; even though I was more of a foot slogger later in life, I really like the look of Yak 130. It's mostly a trainee plane but I really like the compact design. I saw some of them recently in an airshow during the October celebrations in formation, was a pretty cool sight.





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Re: Rusty's Naval/Military History thread
« Reply #22 on: May 03, 2014, 06:52:26 PM »
Nice lines, but all the ordinance hanging clutters it up, visually.

I wish you were more comfortable with relating your war stories...

Offline Geo

Re: Rusty's Naval/Military History thread
« Reply #23 on: May 03, 2014, 07:35:41 PM »
On another note; even though I was more of a foot slogger later in life, I really like the look of Yak 130. It's mostly a trainee plane but I really like the compact design. I saw some of them recently in an airshow during the October celebrations in formation, was a pretty cool sight.

As relatively recent Russian jet planes go, the Sukhoi 27-37 line is my favorite. ;b;
From the ones flying around during my youth, dibs go to the Mig-23.

Btw, that Yak 130 eerily reminds me of the Alpha jet used in NAYO for training purposes. ;)

Offline Rusty Edge

Re: Rusty's Naval/Military History thread
« Reply #24 on: May 03, 2014, 11:02:14 PM »
On another note; even though I was more of a foot slogger later in life, I really like the look of Yak 130. It's mostly a trainee plane but I really like the compact design. I saw some of them recently in an airshow during the October celebrations in formation, was a pretty cool sight.

Btw, that Yak 130 eerily reminds me of the Alpha jet used in NAYO for training purposes. ;)

You mean the F-5 "Freedom Fighters" ( there's a cold war name if there ever was one ) / T-38 Talon trainer?

That was a personal favorite. A lot like the zeros in a way, smaller, lighter, more maneuverable.

Offline Geo

Re: Rusty's Naval/Military History thread
« Reply #25 on: May 04, 2014, 08:01:06 PM »
Btw, that Yak 130 eerily reminds me of the Alpha jet used in NAYO for training purposes. ;)

You mean the F-5 "Freedom Fighters" ( there's a cold war name if there ever was one ) / T-38 Talon trainer

Nope. The Alpha jet is a French/German design from the early seventies. I think its full name is the Dassault/Dornier Alpha Jet.

Offline Rusty Edge

Re: Rusty's Naval/Military History thread
« Reply #26 on: May 09, 2014, 08:05:57 PM »
Life doesn't always go the way we expect. I had a nice visit with my parents. Not very much reading. I did play some BTS.

To be amended-

So the book which I am currently reading is about PBYs in the Atlantic theater. It would be great for a model-maker. It has lots of great photos identifying individual aircraft, it has pictures of the various camo /paint schemes, and spends a lot of space on talking about what locations various units were based and the dates. It's probably the driest reading so far about PBYs.

The U-boats were a major menace, particularly after war was declared but before convoys became universal.

The planes first patrolled the east coast, then the Gulf of Mexico/ Caribbean /Canal zone, then the northern convoy routes.

Of the first 20 attacks against subs, only one was an actual U-boat. The rest were friendly.

Tactics evolved. At first sight, the U-boats would dive before the PBYs could intercept. However, this meant that the U-boats had to operate on batteries at reduced speed, so being sighted by a PBY ruined their chances of attacking merchant ships.

So U-boats were ordered to remain on the surface and engage the lightly armed PBYs. It was deadly business. The PBYs carried 4 depth charges. To destroy a sub they had to be released from 100 ft. above.  Initially the U-boats carried a machine gun and an all-purpose deck gun that could be used to fire flack shells. 20 and 30mm cannon were added.

Meanwhile, the PBYs experimented with bigger and better bow weapons. They tried fixed .50 cal, and 20 mm cannon. The trouble with the fixed weapons was that the pilot concentrated on shooting it out with the U-boat instead of making a proper depth-charge approach. Then they tried twin .50's on a swivel, but they were too heavy to handle. They settled for twin .30s on a swivel.

There were losses on both sides, but usually it was a matter of damage and withdrawal. A damaged sub might be hunted and destroyed if it were leaking oil. A damaged PBY might return to base, be repaired and return to patrol before the U-boat  could even return to port.
The dead and wounded were simply replaced. 

There were problems with icing in the winter for flying boats based out of Greenland and Iceland. There were dangers with landings and take-offs with ice in the water. Also, the seas in the open North Atlantic were too rough for water landings. Taking off again was out of the question. Landing usually meant destroying the PBY, as the waves would stove in the bow windows and landing gear compartments and the plane would flood and sink.

Naval planners intended for the newer,  better armed Martin PBMs to take over Atlantic operations, but they had lesser range and were plagued with technical problems, and the production was limited, too. Gradually the PBYs were replaced by B-24 Liberators.

In the Atlantic theater, there was group called "the MAD Cats" . It referred to Magnetic Anomaly Detector. If they had this equipment aboard, and towed a cone behind the tail of the plain, and patrolled at 100ft.  they could find shipwrecks and submerged submarines within a 400' radius. Not much use in the open ocean, but pretty good at intercepting U-boats in the straights of Gibraltar.

So, while the PBYs only sunk about 20 U-boats total in the battle of the Atlantic, they did manage to find and interfere with enough of them that the U-boats gradually receded from control of the Atlantic. Just by finding a reporting the position of a U-boat, a PBY  transformed
it from a hunter to the hunted. Convoys could divert. Destroyers could converge. Patrol and escort was shifted to other nations as the areas "cooled down".  When the PBYs eventually came within range of the Luftwaffe in Europe they were dead ducks.

I'm starting to read about search and rescue operations. With all of the planes and ships crossing the Atlantic, there was plenty of need for search and rescue work, even without German activity. Planes got lost or had weather or mechanical problems and had to ditch. PBYs were sometimes able to land and take off from melt lakes on the Greenland Glacier.




Offline Geo

Re: Rusty's Naval/Military History thread
« Reply #27 on: May 09, 2014, 10:04:18 PM »
You mean the F-5 "Freedom Fighters" ( there's a cold war name if there ever was one ) / T-38 Talon trainer?

Saw one of these (literaly) swooping around at Luzern airspace the other day. Funny thing is the Swiss seem to have a referendum next week about buying replacements for these old jet fighters.

Offline Rusty Edge

Re: Rusty's Naval/Military History thread
« Reply #28 on: May 09, 2014, 10:40:52 PM »
Reserve planes used to practice flying under the radar, often crossing our farms. The various models had their own characteristics. They changed over the years. We always enjoyed seeing them, and knowing that they were practicing.

The F-94Cs Starfires didn't event try to fly that low, instead they often performed slow aerobatic loops and other dogfight maneuvers with each other.

The F-5 Phantoms made the most smoke by far.

The F-105 Thunder jets came through straight and fast, and were the loudest.

The A-7 Corsairs ( this was the naval jet fighter-bomber named for the previously discussed WWII plane) weren't that distinctive in their flights, but always carried the most interesting array of bombs and missiles.

The A-10 Fairchilds were relatively low and slow.

The F-5's were by far the most nimble. They were like motor cycles on the freeway, low and fast and never taking a straight course. I  swear one once steered around our silo which was only 30' high, 35' at most with the roof and lightning rod! I could see all the rivets and the treetops  in the fencerow above it as it went past. I had a side view, not a belly view.

I'm sure they weren't supposed to fly that close to barns, but we never complained.

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Re: Rusty's Naval/Military History thread
« Reply #29 on: May 09, 2014, 10:42:26 PM »
:D

 

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