Thursday, January 29, 2015

Flight Deck of American Aircraft Carrier Filled with Whirling Propellers

The flight deck crew prepares Grumman F6F Hellcat fighters of VF-16 and Douglas SBD Dauntless dive-bombers for launch from the USS Lexington (CV-16), en route near New Guinea during Palau air attacks (known as "Operation Desecrate One"), 30 March 1944. The Hellcats still sporting three tone camouflage and non-geometric tail patterns. At that day, the Japanese anchorage at Palau was attacked by F6F Hellcats, SBD Dauntless, TBF Avenger and SB2C Helldiver flown from carrier aircraft from Task Group 58. 1's USS Enterprise (CV-6), USS Belleau Wood (CVL-24) and USS Cowpens (CVL-25), TG 58. 2's USS Bunker Hill (CV-17), USS Hornet (CV-12), USS Monterey (CVL-26) and USS Cabot (CVL-28) and TG 58. 3's USS Yorktown (CV-10), USS Lexington (CV-16), USS Princeton (CVL-23) and USS Langley (CVL-27). The picture was taken by LIFE photographer J.R. Eyerman


A Bergepanzer Tiger (P) being used to repair a Panzerkampfwagen V Panther on the Eastern Front

A Bergepanzer Tiger (P) being used to repair a Panzerkampfwagen V Panther on the Eastern Front (1943-1944). The Bergetiger was the name the Allied forces gave to a German World War II armored tracked vehicle based on the Tiger I chassis. The vehicle was first "found" abandoned on a roadside in Italy with terminal engine problems. The main gun had been removed, and a boom & winch assembly had been fitted to the turret. No other Tiger tanks modified in this manner were ever recovered. At the time the vehicle was found it was assumed the vehicle was intended as a tank recovery vehicle. Germans used the "berge" prefix to denote recovery vehicle versions of tanks, such as the "Bergepanther" and "Bergepanzer". Thus the allies dubbed the vehicle they had found the "Bergetiger". No official German name for this vehicle has ever been located. The Bergetiger's role as a recovery vehicle has been disputed ever since its discovery. The evidence often cited against it being a recovery vehicle is that its crane was not designed to tow the weight of a tank, nor was it equipped with any other common recovery equipment. A popular alternate theory is that the vehicle was field-modified (possibly after suffering damage to the main gun) as either a mine-clearing vehicle, or to drop explosives to clear battlefield obstacles.

"Combat Tanks" magazine, Nr.111

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Oberfeldwebel Herbert Hampe, Bomber Ace

Oberfeldwebel Herbert Hampe (10 October 1913 - 13 September 1999) is one of a few example of outstanding career for an enlisted man, from 1931 to 1945! Involved in more than 500 highly-risked missions as a bomber pilot, he participated in the Spanish Civil War, Invasion of Poland, Battle of France, Battle of Britain, Invasion of Yugoslavia, Battle of Crete, and the Eastern Front. Hampe received the Ritterkreuz des Eisernen Kreuzes in 5 April 1944 as a Flugzeugführer in II.Gruppe / Kampfgeschwader 3 (KG 3) "Blitz" / IV.Fliegerkorps / Luftflotte 6. Other awards and decorations: Cruz de Guerra Cross (8 September 1939); Medalla de la Campaña de España 1936-1939 (8 September 1939); Spanienkreuz in Gold mit Schwertern (8 September 1939); Eisernes Kreuz II.Klasse (21 September 1939); Eisernes Kreuz I.Klasse (25 April 1940); Flyers Wing Bulgaria (25 April 1941); Luftwaffe Ehrenpokale für Besondere Leistungen im Luftkrieg (1 July 1941); Frontflugspange für Kampfflieger in Gold mit Anhänger (1942); Ärmelband "Kreta" (1942); Deutsches Kreuz in Gold (27 July 1942); and Frontflugspange für Kampfflieger in Gold mit Anhänger und Einzatszahl "500" (12 November 1944)


Friday, January 23, 2015

Hauptmann Manfred Meurer, Luftwaffe Night Fighter Ace

Hauptmann Manfred Meurer (8 September 1919 – 22 January 1944) was a Luftwaffe night fighter flying ace who was credited with 65 aerial victories claimed in 130 combat missions. He was also a recipient of the Ritterkreuz des Eisernen Kreuzes mit Eichenlaub. Meurer claimed his first victory on his first combat mission(!) on 26–27 March 1942. By the end of the year he had claimed a further seven victories. In January 1943 he was appointed Staffelkapitän (squadron leader) of 3 staffel, NJG 1. On 14–15 February he claimed three heavy bombers and on 12–13 March, a further four. During May he scored some 14 victories and in July he achieved his 50th victory, a Mosquito light bomber. On 5 August 1943 Hauptmann Meurer was transferred as Gruppenkommandeur (group commander) of II./Nachtjagdgeschwader 5 (NJG 5—5th Night Fighter Wing) before returning to NJG 1 in September 1943 as Gruppenkommandeur of I./NJG 1. I gruppe flew the Heinkel He 219 and Meurer gained five victories flying this type. On the night of 21–22 January 1944 he collided with an Avro Lancaster raiding Berlin. His He 219A-0 crashed and Meurer and his radar operator Oberfeldwebel Gerhard Scheibe were killed.


M4 Sherman Tanks in Manoeuvres in the American Desert

American tank crews bound for North Africa practicing their M4 Sherman for manoeuvres in the California desert, October 1942. Years before the tank forces of USA and Germany met for the first time in North Africa — indeed, years before Germany declared war on the United States — the outcome of the battles at Sidi bou Zid and Kasserine Pass (early 1943) had already been determined. Since the end of World War I, the United States had turned its back on its armed forces, particularly the army. While Germany developed state-of-the-art tanks and theory for using them in battle, the US Army did next to nothing of the sort. Americans by and large were in no frame of mind to have their tax money spent on the military when they had no intention of fighting a European war ever again. By the time Germany invaded Poland on September 1, 1939, the United States had only the 17th largest army in the world, with about 190,000 troops. Worse, the US Army was one of the least modernized forces in the world. Army training had ground to a virtual halt in 1934. Army doctrine was mired in World War I thinking, and the materiel was of the same vintage. The army had little or no experience maneuvering or operating at brigade, division, or corps levels. It was scattered all over the United States and its territories, mostly at battalion strength. So, when US Army units finally met the Germans on the North African sand in February 1943, they would do so with weapons and tactics inferior to those of their battle-hardened enemy. The US Army’s main medium battle tank (classified by relative weight) was the M4 Sherman. The Sherman’s main gun was a 70mm cannon, which gave it at least a fighting chance against the German Mark IV tank. On the other hand, the gasoline-burning Sherman tended to catch fire when hit by an enemy shell, hence its rueful nickname among American troops: the Ronson, after a company that manufactured cigarette lighters.


Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Luftwaffe Ace Ernst-Wilhelm Reinert Wearing Life-Vest

Hauptmann Ernst-Wilhelm "Erwi" Reinert (2 February 1919 – 5 September 2007) won his fame in the Mediterranean theaters with Jagdgeschwader 27 "Afrika" and Jagdgeschwader 77 "Herz As", which explains his suntarn in this photograph, taken in October 1943. He claimed more than 50 kills over Africa and Italy, but on 13 August 1943, after claiming three victories, almost drowned when he was forced to ditch in the sea close to the Italian coast. Reinert flew 715 combat missions and was officially credited with shooting down 174 enemy aircraft plus 16 ground victories. 103 claims were made on the Eastern Front, 20 on the Western Front, and 51 in the Mediterranean theatre. He also destroyed 16 armoured vehicles plus 6 locomotives. This picture was first published as a cover of "Die Wehrmacht" magazine, Nr.22 (27 October 1943) edition when he was a Leutnant and Flugzeugführer in 4.Staffel / Jagdgeschwader 77, and shows Reinert wearing a Luftwaffe pilot's life vest (Luftschwimmweste). This rubberized, yellow canvas construction, pneumatic flotation life vest have a central front vertical opening with two corresponding canvas reinforced securing rings positioned on the right breast panel. The upper left breast bladder has a vertical, black rubber, manual, inflation tube. The manual inflation tube is held in place by a horizontal canvas loop, which places the mouthpiece near the wearer’s mouth for ease of inflation. The bottom edge of the left breast bladder has a metal alloy and brass connecting port housing designed for the cylindrical pressurized air canister which would automatically inflate the bladders. The bottom edge of the life vest has a tapering, vertical canvas strap stitched to the reverse center with corresponding canvas reinforced securing rings positioned on the bottom edge of the front center which was intended to slip between the wearers legs so that the vest didn’t slip upwards

Book "Luftwaffe at War; Luftwaffe Aces of the Western Front" by Robert Michulec

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

US Navy SBD Dauntless in Flight during Palau Attack

US Navy Douglas SBD-5 Dauntless dive bomber of bombing squadron VB-10 in flight during Palau Islands air raid attack in 30 March 1944. One of the last two SBD squadrons to operate from U.S. fleet carriers during the Second World War, VB-10 flew from the deck of the "Big E" during the period January-July 1944, and participated in the Battle of the Philippine Sea on 19-20 June 1944. Over the next two days, the 11 fast carriers of TF-58 attacked Japanese bases in the western Carolines while amphibious forces landed at Hollandia, New Guinea. Three TBF squadrons mined Palau Harbor while SBDs and other aircraft claimed 28 ships sunk of 108,000 gross tons! Note the gunner in the rear of the Dauntless, at the ready with his twin .30-calibers.

Book "SBD Dauntless Units of World War 2" by Barrett Tillman

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Wilhelm Batz in a Studio Portrait after Receiving Eichenlaub

Sun-tanned Hauptmann Wilhelm "Willi" Batz (21 May 1916 - 11 September 1988) smile for a formal portrait by Walter Frentz after the award ceremony with Adolf Hitler and two other Luftwaffe officers (Major Herbert Lamprecht and Hauptmann der Reserve Heinz Strüning) at Führerhauptquartier Wolfsschanze (Rastenburg) in 25 July 1944. Only five days before (20 July 1944) Batz received the telegram from Oberkommando der Luftwaffe which informed him of the bestowal of Eichenlaub zum Ritterkreuz des Eisernen Kreuzes (vorschlagnummer 526) for his remarkable achievement as a fighter pilot with 188 confirmed victories. At that time he was a Gruppenkommandeur of III.Gruppe / Jagdgeschwader 52 (JG 52) / VIII.Fliegerkorps / Luftflotte 4. He was operating with such luminaries as Hauptmann Erich “Bubi” Hartmann (352 victories, RK-Br), Oberleutnant Friedrich “Fritz” Obleser (120 victories, RK) and Oberleutnant Walter Wolfrum (137 victories, RK) among the high-scoring pilots of III./JG 52 at that time. In the end of the war, Batz flew 445 combat missions and claimed 237 enemy aircraft shot down. 234 of these victories were achieved over the Eastern Front, including at least 46 Il-2 Sturmoviks, but he did claim three victories, including one four-engine bomber against the United States Army Air Forces (USAAF) over the Ploieşti oil fields. He was wounded three times and was shot down four times.  At war’s end he was able to extricate his unit and men from Hungary and Austria back to Germany to surrender to American forces. He was thus able to avoid the prolonged Soviet captivity that befell the personnel of other two JG 52 Gruppen.


Friday, January 2, 2015

Jagdtiger No.331 of Leutnant Kasper Geoggler in Neustadt

Panzerjäger Tiger Ausf.B mit 12,8cm PaK 44 L/55 "Jagdtiger"(Sd.Kfz.186) Nr. 331 of schwere Panzerjäger-Abteilung 653 after she was abandoned in Landauer Strasse in Neustadt an der Weinstrasse. The vehicles are shown here being examined by American soldiers from the 10th Armored Division, on 23 March 1945. Leutnant Kasper Geoggler commanded the Jagdtiger No.331, also the third Kampfgruppe from 3.Kompanie / sPzJg.Abt.653. Geoggler had nerves of steel, and was very keen to prove himself. He was awarded the Deutsches Kreuz in Gold (German Cross in Gold) on 10 May 1943 whilst fighting on the Eastern Front. He had already had several kills to his credit with his Jagdtiger. In 22 March 1945, Geoggler had three Jagdtigers including his own placed into a good position north of Neustadt with a commmanding view of the approach roads to the town. From camouflage postions, the three Jagdtigers engaged in U.S. tank column; the first and last vehicles were shot up followed by the rest. The Shermans and M10 tank destroyer returned fire. Two Jagdtigers - Geoggler's and another, No.323 - were hit ten times between them. They withdrew into Neustadt. After the battle, 25 US tanks were claimed destroyed, while none of the Jagdtiger crew suffered any serious injuries! The thick sloping-armor had done its job.

"Jagdtiger, The Most Powerful Armoured Fighting Vehicle of World War II-Operational History" by Andrew Devey, page 227