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No. 44 Squadron (SAAF) during the Second World War
Aircraft - Locations - Group and Duty - Books
No.44 Squadron, S.A.A.F., was a a transport squadron that operated in the Mediterranean from July 1944 until the end of 1945.
No.44 Squadron was formed by the renumbering of No.43 Squadron, SAAF, which had arrived in Egypt on 26 February. The squadron was renumbered on 12 March to avoid any confusion with No.43 Squadron, RAF, which was also operating in the Mediterranean theatre.
No.44 Squadron didn't become operational until 14 July 1944. In the interim the squadron's personnel were scattered across the area, with some in Egypt, some in Italy and some in Libya, while the aircrews trained with No.28 Squadron, SAAF, also a transport squadron.
No.44 Squadron operated over a very wide area, which included most of the Mediterranean as well as routes to the Sudan and East Africa, and occasional trips to Russia. Although it only operated from two main bases (Cairo West until February 1945 then Bari in Italy until December 1945), a number of detachments were scattered around the Mediterranean, Africa and the Middle East. In December 1944 the detachment at Bari began to fly operations in support of the Yugoslav partisans, taking the squadron's aircraft over enemy territory on a regular basis.
The squadron continued to operate until 7 December 1945. On that date its aircraft began to leave Italy for Cairo, and on 8 December the RAF officially took over its transport duties. The last of the squadron's aircraft left Italy on 11 December, and the squadron returned to South Africa.
One of these detachments was based at Bari. In December 1944 it began to operate in support of the Yugoslav partisans,
April 1944-December 1945: Douglas Dakota III
March-August 1945: Avro Anson XII
March 1944-February 1945: Cairo West
February-December 1945: Bari
Squadron Codes: -
July 1943-December 1945: Transport Squadron
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No. 44 Squadron (SAAF): Second World War - History
Johannes Jacobus le Roux was educated in Springs, Transvaal and worked as an apprentice in the Springs Mines,saving money for a trip to the UK. He and a friend tried to join the SAAF, but had been rejected due to the force's small budget. Both then joined the RAF in February 1939. It is believed that on completing of training, Le Roux was posted to No 73 Squadron, a Hurricane Squadron of the AASF (Advanced Air Striking Force) in France. Chris (as he had been known throughout his service in the RAF) le Roux was in the thick of the fighting, for the AASF fighters had to cover the evacuation of the ground staff, and the three remaining British divisions. He was wounded in France during May 1940, spending six weeks in hospital. On recovery he became an instructor near Chester for a while, but in February 1941 was posted to No. 91 Squadron. His tour ended in December, and we went as a instructor to 55 OTU until March 1942, when he was posted to Rolls-Royce. He rejoined 91 Squadron as a supernumerary in September 1942. In January 1943 he was posted out to Nort Africa to join 111 Squadron, taking over command of this unit on 26th, and leading it troughout the rest of the Tunesian Campaign until 30 April. He then became a flight controller. He commenced a third tour in 1944 when he took over 602 Squadron in France in July. After claiming a ME109 shot down, he strafed a staff car in which it was claimed Feldmarshall Erwin Rommel was travelling. Diving on his car, they caused it to overturn near the village of Sainte Foy de Montgomerie, and Rommel was flung into a ditch and sustained a fractured skull. He survived (but was removed as Army Commander on the Western Front) only to kill himself on 14th October, rather than stand trial for complicity in the plot against Hitler of 20th July. On 29 August Le Roux took off to fly to England in bad weather, but failed to arrive, and was reported missing.
His cheerful personality and good looks had made him one of South Africa's most popular fighter pilots, and he was mourned by all who had known him.
His final score of victories was 18 destroyed, 2 probables and 8 damaged.
Chris Le Roux is remembered on Panel 200 of the Runnymede Memorial.
28th February 1940: Pilot Officer
28th February 1941: Flying Officer
28th February 1942: Flight Lieutenant
September 1942: Squadron Leader.
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THE FIRST ALLIED AERIAL RECONNAISSANCE OVER AUSCHWITZ DURING WORLD WAR II
The first aerial photographs of the Auschwitz death camp were unknowingly taken by Lt Charles Barry* during a World War II photoreconnaissance mission over the giant I G Farben Synthetic Oil and Rubber Plant at Monowitz, Poland, five kilometres east of Auschwitz, on 4 April 1944. At the time Lt Barry was a pilot in the well-known 60 (Photoreconnaissance Squadron), South African Air Force (SAAF), operating from San Severo, Italy. He and his navigator Lt Ian McIntyre made the long trip in an unarmed de Havilland Mosquito IX aircraft and were over the target at an altitude of 26 000 feet [7 925 m] for a period of four minutes in the early afternoon.
* Charles Barry, former pilot SAAF and Captain, DFC, is a journalist living in Johannesburg, South Africa navigator Ian McIntyre died some twenty years ago in Cape Town, SA.
This report describes Barry's historic and dangerous mission. In his own words, he recounts the events at Oswiecim (Auschwitz) during the flight of 4 April 1944:
`Ian [Ian McIntyre, the navigator] and I began our first photographic run from west to east, if memory serves correctly. He immediately advised me that the port camera was not working (the two long focal length cameras were mounted in tandem to give overlapping lateral coverage). This gave us a total lateral coverage of about 5 miles [8 km] on the 20 inch [50 cm] cameras. It was unhealthy to hang around with a second run in an unarmed aircraft because of possible enemy interception. Nevertheless we decided to do two runs instead of one to ensure positive coverage. Ian left the cameras running longer than usual and I believe that the over-run on the east to west run pulled in something of the death camp later known as Auschwitz.'(l)
The post-mission Interrogation Report(2) reveals that enemy aircraft were sighted by Barry and McIntyre but the unarmed Mosquito was fortunately not attacked. Barry's logbook notes that there was trouble with the non-functioning camera and also with the generator of the aircraft engine. The trip, largely over enemy held territory, required five hours. Barry continued his account:
`You may also be interested to know that we had no inkling of the camp being there, and it wasn't until the Holocaust Revisited report was published in 1979 that I and my surviving colleagues from 60 Squadron realised that we had unknowingly been involved in identifying the death camp.'(3)
Brugioni and Poirier, expert photoanalysts with the US Central Intelligence Agency, examined all the available, unclassified, aerial photographs taken over the Auschwitz area during World War II and found that the first Allied reconnaissance aircraft approached the large I G Farben plant on 4 April 1944. Their examination in 1978 of the film from this mission provided photographic evidence of a concentration camp at Auschwitz. Brugioni and Poirier state that the gas chambers and crematoria installations could not have been identified with the military photo-analysis techniques of 1944. They write, `The World War II photointerpreter probably could identify nothing more than the Farben plant and some labour/prisoner of war camps. `(4)
Colonel Roy Stanley, aerial photoanalyst with the US Defense Intelligence Agency, also examined these unexpectedly acquired Auschwitz-Birkenau aerial photographs taken in 1944 he, too, confirmed that the extermination facilities could not have been identified with the equipment and techniques available at that time.(5)
1. Letter dated 30 November 1987, from Charles Barry, Johannesburg, South Africa, with copy of relevant page from Lt Barry's Logbook dated 4 April 1944, to R Foregger.
2. Interrogation Report, Mediterranean Allied Photo Reconnaissance Command (Ref. A1R27/568/XP1948) 4 April 1944. (Public Record Office, London.)
3. Brugioni, Dino and Robert Poitier, The Holocaust Revisited: A Retrospective Analysis of the Auschwitz-Birkenau Extermination Complex (Washington, D.C., Central Intelligence Agency, 1979. ST-79-l0001).
4. Ibid., Brugioni and Poirier incorrectly state (p. 2) that an American reconnaissance aircraft made the mission. Martin Gilbert, in Auschwitz and the Allies (New York, Holt, Rhinehart and Winston, 1981), p. 190 also makes this error.
5. Stanley, Roy, World War II Photo-Intelligence (New York, Scribners, 1981). (p. 345) Col Stanley correctly notes that the photoreconnaissance aircraft was from 60 Photo Squadron, South African Air Force.
Canadian Military Headquarters (CMHQ) reports 1940 to 1948
Canadian Military Headquarters (CMHQ) reports chronicle Canadian action in the Second World War.
The Royal Canadian Navy, Canadian Army and Royal Canadian Air Force appointed historical officers to produce reports for future records. These would form the basis of future Canadian Military Official Histories (for example: Canadian Army Official History).
The Canadian Military Headquarters (CMHQ) reports are the most formal and comprehensive collection of reports. They were researched and written by Canadian military historical officers at the CMHQ in London, England (1940 to 1948).
Major (later Colonel) C.P. Stacey became Historical Officer, General Staff, at the Canadian Military Headquarters (CMHQ), on October 11, 1940. Lieutenant-General H.D.G. Crerar, Chief of the General Staff, recommended Stacey's appointment. Stacey's task was “the collection and preparation of material for future use of the official historian and the placing on the record of historical material not otherwise recorded or available. Footnote 1
The CMHQ reports below have been declassified and are being placed online over time. You can view hard copies at the DHH military history archive research room. Historical documents in their own right, these reports are available only in English.
When referencing the online versions of these texts, use paragraph numbers rather than page numbers, and indicate that the electronic version was used. These are all preliminary narratives and should not be regarded as authoritative. They have not been checked for accuracy in all aspects, and their interpretations are not necessarily those of the Directorate of History and Heritage (DHH)
The Forth Bridge Raid, the first engagement of Spitfires in the skies over Britain during World War Two, is remembered at Queensferry Museum
The Forth Bridge Raid of October 16 1939 can lay claim to a number of firsts of World War Two: it was the first bomber raid by the Luftwaffe over British skies, it was the first instance of an enemy plane being shot down by a Spitfire and it was the first time German personnel became prisoners of war on British turf.
The dramatic Luftwaffe bombing mission saw a fleet German bombers venture up the River Forth on a mission to bomb the Navy’s battlecruiser HMS Hood, resulting in the loss of 24 men dead and 44 injured.
For the passengers on the train crossing the Forth Bridge at the time, it was both an unexpected and frightening experience, as one of them, Edward Thomson, recalls.
“I was a passenger on the Dundee section of an Edinburgh to Aberdeen train which had just entered the first arch at the southern end of the bridge,” says Thomson, who was ten years old at the time.
“The next stop was to be Leuchars Junction. I was in the corridor with an older boy called Jack Thomas from Edinburgh. We were looking downstream to the right of the carriage and were trying to identify some of the fleet at anchor below the bridge.
“Almost simultaneously there was a giant waterspout as high as the bridge alongside one of the capital ships and a barge tied up alongside it seemed to fly up in the air! The German bombers were in plain sight only a short distance away flying parallel to the bridge.”
Thomson’s vivid recollections are part of a new pop-up display at Queensferry Museum which uses photographs, film footage and eyewitness accounts to explore the raid in which 12 Junkers 88 German bombers flew from their base on the island of Sylt in Northern Germany to the Firth of Forth, where they thought HMS Hood had been spotted earlier that morning.
Luckily, the Hood had moved into dock and the bombers, under the leadership of Hauptmann Helmut Pohle and Oberleutnant Sigmund Storp, turned their attentions to three ships on the eastern side of the Forth Bridge: HMS Edinburgh, HMS Southampton, HMS Mohawk, which they attacked in four waves of three.
Although a fault in the radar system at Cockburnspath meant there was no warning, anti-aircraft guns blasted at the raiders from Dalmeny Estate and two Auxiliary Spitfire Squadrons were scrambled to defend the Forth: 602 Squadron (City of Glasgow) who were based at Drem in East Lothian and 603 Squadron (City of Edinburgh) based at Turnhouse.
Flight Lieutenant Pat Gifford (above), from the 603 Squadron, shot down the first bomber which crashed just off the coast at Port Seton. A second was downed at Crail by Flight Lieutenant George Pinkerton from 602 Squadron.
A third crippled bomber limped back to Holland, where it crashed killing all on board. In all, eight German airmen died - the two bodies recovered received a full military funeral in Edinburgh.
The four German airmen captured included Pohle and Storp, who were picked up by HMS Jervis and local fishing boat the Dayspring and taken as prisoners of war to Edinburgh Castle.
News soon spread of the raid, and it hastened the introduction of barrage balloons and early air raid warning systems throughout the UK. The GPO film unit also made a propaganda film about it, which established the erroneous fact that it was an attack on the bridge, rather than the ships moored nearby.
“For such a landmark event at the beginning of World War Two it seems to me a story that merits retelling,” says exhibition curator Mark Taylor, a local historian, whose Queensferry Tours provides historic walking tours through the old Royal Burgh town.
“It was the first time Spitfires were ever used in combat - an important event that should not be forgotten and it all happened here, above our Forth Bridge.”
The Forth Bridge Raid is on display until June 1 2015. Admission free (closed Tuesday and Wednesday).
Authorized 23 January 1943 and incorporates the following units.
- Authorized as '164 (Transport) Squadron' 23 January 1943. Footnote 1
- Divided into two units 1 August 1946, with the Edmonton detachment redesignated '435 (Transport) Squadron'. Footnote 2 See also 426 Squadron.
- Authorized as '435 (Transport) Squadron' 20 August 1944. Footnote 3
- Disbanded 31 March 1946. Footnote 4
- Reformed from the Edmonton detachment of '164 Transport Squadron' 1 August 1946, as above.
- Redesignated '435 Transport and Rescue Squadron' 1 May 1995. Footnote 5
The Bad Boy Commander of Operation Bolo
A month before the fall of Nazi Germany, Maj. Robin Olds of the 479th Fighter Group, U.S. Army Air Forces, scored his final aerial victory of World War II, chasing a Messerschmitt 109 through a formation of B-24 Liberator bombers and shooting it down. More than two decades later, on Sept. 30, 1966, a U.S. Air Force C-130 Hercules dropped Olds, a colonel by then, and the rest of the passengers on the wrong end of a runway at Ubon Royal Thai Air Force Base, home of the 8th Tactical Fighter Wing. “We stood on a piece of hot concrete a mile away from base ops, the sun beating on us from a brassy sky,” Olds wrote in his memoir. “A fine greeting for their new commander.”
The pilots of the 8th TFW, who called themselves the “Wolfpack,” had bigger worries than catering to a new commanding officer. In January 1966 the North Vietnamese air force fielded new Soviet-built Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-21 “Fishbed” interceptors. Deploying heat-seeking missiles in ground-controlled hit-and-run tail attacks, the MiG-21s were exacting a toll on the Air Force’s F-105 Thunderchief bombers, adding to the losses already being inflicted from anti-aircraft guns and surface-to-air missiles. Anti-aircraft fire, SAMs and MiGs were also inflicting losses on the Wolfpack, which flew F-4 Phantom II fighter-bombers. In six months from April to September 1966, the unit had lost 18 Phantoms—eight of them in September alone—and 21 pilots were dead or missing, remembered 1st Lt. Ralph Wetterhahn in the fighter wing’s 555th Tactical Fighter Squadron, the “Triple Nickel.”
The Cold War Air Force was all about intercontinental ballistic missiles and strategic bombers. Fighter planes and fighter pilots engaging in aerial dogfights were considered “old hat.” Double-ace Olds, with his foul mouth, heavy drinking and movie-star wife, Ella Raines, rubbed the bomber generals the wrong way. One told him, “You’re not going to put on your leather jacket, your scarf, your helmet and goggles and go out and do battle with the Red Baron. You’ve got to get it into your head: we’re never again going to fight a conventional war.” Olds had missed the fighting in Korea, but finally ticked off somebody enough to get himself sent to Vietnam. “It had been twenty-two years since I’d fought in a war,” he later recalled, “but it was obvious where my task lay.”
The young fighter jocks at Ubon were equally leery of the “Old Man,” who at 44 was twice their age and had never flown a Phantom or fired a guided missile until a few weeks earlier. “We had heard about Olds,” Wetterhahn said. “He had flown P-51 Mustangs and P-38 Lightnings over Europe in World War II and had scored 12 kills in dogfights. We’d also heard that he had been on the general’s list some years ago, but had been redlined from promotion. We were curious to meet this resurrected bad boy, and soon after his arrival, everybody got the opportunity. He ordered all pilots to come to the main briefing room—the first time we’d all been brought together.”
Capt. John B. Stone of the 433rd Tactical Fighter Squadron, “Satan’s Angels,” never forgot Olds’ intro: “I’m the new guy. You know a lot that I don’t know, and I’m here to learn from you. But in two or three weeks, I’m gonna be better than all of you. And when I know more about your job than you do, you’re in trouble.”
Capt. John Stone, right, with Olds, pitched the idea of “disguising” F-4s as F-105s to trick MiG pilots who were trying to avoid the F-4s. (U.S. Air Force)
Those pilots “had little time or respect for wing commanders,” Olds said. “Well, why should they? None of the commanders flew much therefore, they knew little about the missions.” All that was about to change. “I knew that there was a spark of morale at the flying squadron level that could be built into something bigger. These guys had spirit.”
Starting out in the tail-end of formations like a lowly second lieutenant, the new commanding officer quickly revealed his experience with stick and rudder. In only two or three weeks, as Stone remembered, Olds was “out front on the pointy end, leading.” And Wetterhahn concluded, “This guy Robin Olds was the real thing.”
Olds looked into the 8th TFW’s high casualty rate and found that the biggest threat was Air Force doctrine. Bombing raids went north in lockstep, predictable patterns. “There were no tactics,” Stone said. “Everyone went the same route, the same time of day, the enemy knew we were coming.”
“I might be the new guy in town,” Olds said, “but I knew that doing the same thing along the same route from the same direction one after another wasn’t a survivable tactic.”
The new commander also faced another hurdle: His pilots had little experience and not much training in dogfighting techniques. Olds told one of his pilots, former air-combat instructor Capt. Everett Raspberry: “Razz, you’re the only guy around here who has taught any air-to-air at Fighter Weapons School, so I need you do some training with the other guys. You know these guys don’t know a whole hell of a lot about air-to-air or combat maneuvering or missiles for that matter—so teach them!”
“The problem was,” admitted Raspberry, who had trained in old F-100 Super Sabres, “I had never fired a missile from an F-4 before in reality, not many of us had.”
The MiGs were not inclined to risk aerial combat with other fighters, preferring to attack the bombers that were pounding North Vietnam. “The MiGs exhibited a tendency to avoid the F-4s,” Olds observed.
American pilots could fly over the communist air base at Phuc Yen, 19 miles north of Hanoi, look down and see silver MiGs perfectly lined up along the ground, where one attack could wipe them out. Indeed, Olds could probably have dispatched the whole fleet himself. In World War II, he had destroyed 11½ planes (sharing in the destruction of one) that were parked on the ground. North Vietnam’s entire MiG force in 1966 consisted of just 16 aircraft. But Olds and other pilots in Vietnam were forbidden to strike military installations like the air base at Phuc Yen because of President Lyndon B. Johnson’s concerns that they might kill Russian and Chinese advisers, giving those countries an excuse to enter the war.
Since Olds was prohibited from hitting North Vietnamese aircraft on the ground, he told Stone one night, as they pored over intelligence reports, “Damn it, we’ve got to get those MiGs up where we can get at them.”
Stone, a veteran of more than 50 missions up north, had an idea. Because the MiGs were avoiding the F-4 Phantom fighters and focusing their attacks on the F-105 Thunderchief bombers, the F-4s should disguise themselves as F-105s to lure the North Vietnamese aircraft into a dogfight where the Americans could destroy them, Stone reasoned. That October the F-105s, nicknamed “Thuds,” had been equipped with new electronic equipment that jammed radar and blocked tracking systems the North Vietnamese used in guiding their SAMs. Olds and Stone decided to borrow some F-105 jammers and rig them to the Phantoms, making them appear to enemy radar as Thuds.
“Our ruse was simple,” Olds wrote. “Our F-4s would mount a typical large strike using the F-105 call signs, routes, and timings, the routine stuff that the North Vietnamese were used to seeing in the predictable bombing raids by the Thuds but we would be armed for air-to-air combat.” The F-4 carried four radar-guided AIM-7E Sparrow missiles and four heat-seeking AIM- 9B missiles. If the MiGs fell for the bait-and-switch, they would encounter not Thunderchief bombers but instead waves of Phantoms, all loaded and ready for a fight.
The first test of Olds’ deception tactics was set for New Year’s Day 1967, with the launch of Operation Bolo, named for a Filipino machete that looked harmless until revealed as a weapon. The plan called for 12 Phantom flights, with four fighters each, to go directly over the four air bases around Hanoi to entice the MiGs into the air. Two of those F-4 flights would block the MiGs’ northeastern escape route to China. The rest were scheduled so that once the MiGs were flushed out, at least one flight of F-4s would be over each of the four enemy airfields for the next hour, “ready to shoot down MiGs as they tried to land,” Wetterhahn said.
The 8th TFW flights were code-named after cars of the day—Ford, Plymouth, Tempest, Rambler and Olds(mobile). “Naturally,” said the wing commander, “my flight would be Olds.” Minutes behind his flight was Ford Flight, led by deputy wing commander Col. Daniel “Chappie” James Jr. (later the first African-American to reach the rank of four-star general) followed by Stone with Rambler Flight.
On New Year’s Day, poor weather over Hanoi forced a 24-hour delay, and the next morning was little better: solid cloud up to 7,000 feet. But the clouds would keep enemy ground observers from spotting the F-4s’ masquerade, so Olds told his men, “OK, Wolfpack, “go get ’em!”
Takeoff from Ubon, about 400 miles southwest of Hanoi, began at 1:25 p.m. Six KC-135 Stratotanker aerial refueling planes kept the Phantoms topped off all the way into Laos. Afterward, Olds’ flight dropped away, and he started his “best F-105 impersonation.” With their jammer pods activated, the F-4s in his fight crossed the Black River in the northwestern corner of North Vietnam and turned southeast to fly along the 5,000-foot Thud Ridge, which Olds described as looking “like a giant finger pointing directly at Phuc Yen airfield.”
This was Olds’ first trip to Hanoi, and he had never seen a real MiG. “In this particular mission, I think there were only two of us on it that had ever seen an enemy airplane in the air,” he said. Wetterhahn, flying as Olds’ wingman, remembered heavy clouds over Hanoi. “We couldn’t see the airfields and SAMs could fire at us through the overcast, but Olds stayed cool.”
As the F-4s overflew Phuc Yen, Olds’ back-seat weapons system officer, 1st Lt. Charles C. Clifton, scanned the cloud deck with radar: Nothing. Had the North Vietnamese recognized the American trick and decided to stay on the ground?
After a few miles, Olds turned his flight back toward the approaching Ford and Rambler flights. As he closed, 1st Lt. Joe Hicks and back-seater 1st Lt. Peter Brune in the third plane of Olds’ flight reported a radar contact 17 miles ahead—an enemy plane low, fast, head-on. Hicks led the flight down, but the intruder passed under them into the clouds, breaking radar lock.
Since F-105s would not have pursued such a target, Olds fought off his urge to chase and instead climbed back toward 12,000 feet. But deputy commander James and his Ford Flight, now closing from high ahead, reported the MiG had turned and was at Olds’ 6 o’clock.
Olds and Wetterhahn banked left to throw off the attacker’s aim, relying on Hicks and his wingman to get behind it for the kill. “At the same time I saw another MiG pop out of the clouds in a wide turn about my 11 o’clock position, a mile and a half away,” Olds said. That was already too close. The Sparrow missile required a moment after launch to arm itself and also wouldn’t be able to turn sharply enough to get the crossing MiG.
Clifton locked on the MiG with his radar. Olds fired one of his Sparrows, then another, which were to home in on Clifton’s radar reflection to hit the target. But in Olds’ hard turn, Clifton’s radar lost its track on the target, and both of Olds’ Sparrows failed to reach the MiG.
And now silvery MiG-21s were swarming up out of the clouds. In the fourth plane of Olds’ flight, 1st Lt. James E. Murray III, the weapons systems officer, called out more bandits at 5 o’clock, and pilot Capt. Walter S. Radeker III broke right to check his tail. As he did, another MiG closed on Hicks’ F-4 and fired its gun. Wetterhahn recalled thinking, “Someone’s gonna get killed here pretty quick.”
Ford Flight was just then passing overhead. Flying on James’ wing, Raspberry saw a MiG-21 get in behind Olds’ flight and called out a warning. “At the same time, I glanced over my shoulder and saw another MiG-21 making a run on our number 3 and 4 Phantoms in Ford Flight,” Raspberry said. “The MiG was coming up fast at our 5 o’clock so I screamed over the radio, ‘Ford Lead, break right, we have a MiG at our five!’” James ordered his numbers 3 and 4 to break right. The two Phantoms peeled away and down into the clouds. They were out of the fight.
“I had been on Chappie’s right wing so I broke and went underneath him and turned into the MiG,” Raspberry said. “He broke into a right turn as I went into a hard left. At one point we were 50 feet away from one another, canopy to canopy, as I rolled over the top of him…. Suddenly, just before he got to the cloud deck, the MiG-21 reversed his turn and I knew this was my one chance.” Raspberry fired a Sidewinder, which shot out and hit the MiG between the cockpit and tailpipe. The enemy fighter “swapped ends and stalled out, falling into the undercast.”
Score one for the Wolfpack. But Olds’ flight was sandwiched between two MiGs. Wetterhahn, far enough back for a Sparrow shot, fired one but lost sight of it. He fired again and this time watched his Sparrow chase a MiG. He thought for a second that he had missed his target, but then “the missile merges with the MiG and there’s this huge explosion, and he started tumbling.”
The dogfight was just getting started. “Break left, we’ve got one at six!” Wetterhahn called. Radeker rolled in behind the MiG and locked a Sidewinder on the enemy jet, hitting it right in the tail. The MiG snapped nose-down and fell out of the sky.
Meanwhile Olds spotted a MiG at 10 o’clock, crossing right to left. He went after it with full-burner. “I got on top of him and half upside down, hung there, and waited for him to complete more of his turn,” recalled Olds, who had never been to Fighter Weapons School but maneuvered with pure fighter-pilot instinct. “I’m not sure he ever saw me. When I got down low and behind, and he was outlined by the sun against a brilliant blue sky, I let him have two Sidewinders, one of which hit and blew his right wing off. ”
By the time Stone arrived with Rambler Flight, the sky was a “furball” of jet exhaust and rocket trails. “All of a sudden, all of the MiGs they could get airborne, were airborne,” Stone said. Enemy fighters were everywhere.
One of the Rambler crews, 1st Lt. Lawrence J. Glynn Jr. and 1st Lt. Lawrence E. Cary, spotted enemy jets coming out of the clouds 6 miles away but could not call them out—the F-4’s radio had failed. However, another Rambler crew, Maj. Phil Combies and 1st Lt. Lee Dutton, saw the threat too: six MiG-21s against four Phantoms.
The F-4 Phantom II (this is the one flown by 1st. Lt. Ralph Wetterhahn during Operation Bolo) was the top MiG killer of the war with 147 victories. (U.S. Air Force)
“When the MiGs crossed in front of Stone, he started to follow, breaking left and losing height,” recalled Combies, who thus found himself somewhat to the right of the others and higher, putting him above and behind the enemy—in a kill position. He locked onto the third MiG in formation. “I pushed the fire button, released it, pushed it again, and waited.” Combies said. “I did not even see the first Sparrow. However, I followed the entire trajectory of the second one, from launch to impact…. The second one hit the tail section of the enemy aircraft. A second later, I saw a huge, orange ball of fire.” The MiG pilot had evidently realized the game was over. By the time the missile hit, his parachute had already blossomed.
Elsewhere, two MiGs had closed behind the Phantoms of Stone and Glynn. The fifth MiG in the formation actually passed between the Americans, and the sixth MiG wasted a gun burst at too sharp an angle.
The Phantoms dodged right, then left. Glynn lost sight of Stone, who had the first two MiGs in front of him and targeted the second. “I pulled the trigger for the first Sparrow,” Stone said. “It just fell away. So I squeezed two more times.” The second missile went right to one of the MiGs and blew it up.
The dogfight was now so tangled that the authors of the official Air Force report later couldn’t determine which MiG was which or how many were involved.
The F-4s piloted by Glynn and Combies teamed up and went after two more MiGs. Glynn fired two Sparrows at the enemy leader. The second missile hit, so close that the Phantom took damage as Glynn flew through the explosion. He saw the pilot eject. Combies shot all four of his Sidewinders at the other MiG and saw two of them explode—near misses.
Right then somebody shouted, “F-4C I don’t know your call sign, but there’s a MiG on your tail, break hard right!” Every Phantom over Hanoi suddenly snap-turned right. The pilot in trouble was Stone—separated from the others, with a MiG-21 just 700 feet behind him. The enemy pilot fired his 30 mm gun but couldn’t hold his turn. Stone got away, banked back toward his foe, and suddenly he realized, “there’s no MiG. He’s gone.”
The enemy pilots had received their own alert from ground control and dived for home. No other MiGs were seen that day by any American squadron.
Olds’ Wolfpack was credited with seven enemy aircraft destroyed and two probable—half the MiG-21s in Southeast Asia. The squadron’s commander hadn’t lost any planes or men. A journalist asked Olds if he was happy with the results. “No,” the colonel said with a grin. “We missed a few.”
When the Old Man ended his tour in September 1967 after sneaking in 50 more missions, he had added three more Vietnam kills to his score—the only pilot with shootdowns in both World War II (12) and Vietnam (four). In December 1967, he became commandant of the Air Force Academy and in June 1968 was promoted to brigadier general. Olds died on June 14, 2007, at age 84.
In the five months following Olds’ departure from Vietnam, the Wolfpack downed an additional 14 MiGs. By war’s end, it was credited with 38½ confirmed MiG kills, the top Air Force unit of the war and a far cry from the dispirited eaglets Olds had originally met.
As Capt. (later Maj. Gen.) Don Logeman, who flew for Olds in the 555th Tactical Fighter Squadron and shot down a MiG-17 in October 1967, put it, “The Robin Olds of this world are born for combat, not the Pentagon, and I would have flown as his wingman over Hanoi in 1967 even if we had been armed with .45-caliber pistols.”
Don Hollway, an author and historian, wrote about an F-4 crew in “Saving Boxer 22,” in the October 2018 issue of Vietnam Magazine . For more Bolo images and video, visit donhollway.com/bolo .
There can be no better tributes to the Lancaster than those to be found in the county of Lincolnshire. Bearing in mind the importance of the county's airfields to the Lancaster, it is fitting that Lincolnshire is still home to two Lancasters, both of which are available for the public to see. -- Peter Jacobs
Developed from the Avro Manchester, the Avro Lancaster was the heavy bomber of World War Two.
The Avro Manchester was a new generation of twin-engined heavy bombers using two powerful Rolls-Royce Vulture engines. These engines proved too unreliable. More Avro Manchesters were lost through engine failure than enemy action! The Avro Manchester was withdrawn from service in 1942, after 200 aircraft had been built.
A new design took to the air in January 1941 using four less powerful but far more reliable Rolls-Royce Merlin engines. The first off the production line made its maiden flight on Halloween in the same year.
Primarily a night bomber, the Avro Lancaster was to be the main bomber of Bomber Command throughout WWII.
Up until the introduction of heavy bombers, the RAF had relied upon the Fairey Battle, Bristol Blenheim, Handley Page Hampden, Vickers Wellesley, Vickers Wellington (exception) and Armstrong Whitworth Whitley, but these proved too slow, too short range, too low a flight ceiling and incapable of carrying heavy payloads. The exception was the Vickers Wellington.
With its distinctive twin-tail fin and four Merlin engines, the Lancaster carried a crew of seven: pilot, navigator, flight engineer, bomb aimer (doubled as front gunner), wireless operator, mid-upper and rear gunners. Irrespective of rank, the pilot was the commanding officer.
The crews were invariably in their early twenties. A crew member as old as twenty-five would be regarded as ancient.
Before the start of WWII, an Operational Requirements Directive was issued for a heavy bomber.
Short Brothers, Handley Page and Avro took up the challenge. The results were the Short Sterling, Handley Page Halifax and the Avro Manchester.
All three heavy bombers were failures, but Roy Chadwick chief engineer at Avro, convinced he had a good airframe, turned a poor design into the highly successful Avro Lancaster.
The Lancaster entered service in 1942, with 44 Squadron (based at RAF Waddington) and 97 Squadron (based at RAF Woodhall Spa, delivered whilst still at RAF Coningsby). The range and payload capability, meant the Lancaster was able to strike at the heart of the German military machine.
The first operational sortie by Lancasters was a mine laying operation on the night of 3/4 March 1942 by 44 Squadron. Four Lancasters took part, led by Squadron Leader John Nettleton.
The first major sortie was an attack on Augsburg on 17 April 1942. A joint expedition by 44 and 97 Squadrons. The target was submarine diesel engine works in southern Germany. The daring raid was at low level in broad daylight. Of the 12 Lancasters that took part in the raid, only 5 returned. Squadron Leader John Nettleton who led the raid was awarded the Victoria Cross.
By the end of 1942, twelve squadrons of Bomber Command were equipped with Lancasters.
Lancasters were manufactured by Metropolitan-Vickers, Armstrong Whitworth, Austin Motor Company as well as Avro. The plane was also manufactured in Canada by Victory Aircraft using Packard-built Merlin engines.
Initially the Lancaster was used on daytime raids, but the level of losses was far to high, and Bomber Command switched to night flying. There was also a change of strategy. Initially, precision bombing of military targets, but with the change of strategy and Arthur 'Bomber' Harris taking charge of Bomber Command, the targets became cities and civilian populations. The raids were intended to terrorise the Germans into submission.
For a time nighttime raids suffered lower losses, but as the Germans learnt, losses once again mounted. A temporary reduction in the losses, with the use of chaff, which foiled the German ground radar, but with the air-to-air radar installed on the German interceptors, losses once again mounted.
Successful German interceptors were downing six Lancasters in a night.
Lancasters were particularly vulnerable to an attack from below, as this was their blind spot.
For D-Day, Lancasters reverted back to daylight raids, as the nearness to the English coast meant they had fighter escorts.
Lancasters using the 11,000 lb Tallboy blockbuster bomb developed by Barnes Wallis, were able to attack hardened U-Boat pens at Le Havre.
9 and 617 squadron successfully attacked the German battleship Tirpitz holed up in a Norwegian fjord using Tallboy. The Tirpitz was sunk by a direct hit from a Tallboy.
A yet bigger bomb, the 22,000 lb Grand Slam, again designed by Barnes Wallis, was used to attack a German viaduct. It was a deep penetration bomb, designed to penetrate concrete, burrow 30 ft into the ground, then create a local earthquake. Too large to fit in the Lancaster bomb bay, it was slung below the aircraft with an electrical release mechanism. Grand Slam was delivered to its target by 617 Squadron.
One of the most daring Lancaster raids, and the one that captured the public imagination, was the 617 Squadron Dambusters Raid, Operation Chastise, on the Ruhr Valley on the night of 16/17 May 1943. A mission led by Squadron Leader Guy Gibson using a revolutionary bouncing bomb designed by Barnes Wallis. A mission imortalised by the 1950s film The Dam Busters co-staring Richard Todd as Guy Gibson and Sir Michael Redgrave as Barnes Wallis.
The first 1,000 bomber raid, Operation Millennium, was on Cologne. Approximately 1,500 tons of bombs were dropped on Cologne that night, causing more damage than all previous sorties on the city. Cologne was virtually destroyed, only 300 houses remained. Although this stretched the resources of the RAF to the limit, ramped up war production made more of these raids possible. The first raid caught the Germans by surprise. Later raids suffered much heavier losses.
Controversial then, and even more controversial now, was the carpet bombing of German cities which led to very high civilian losses. The view at the time was that this was all out war.
At first, and following a warning from President Roosevelt, both sides respected each others cities. A German bomber off course, dropped its payload on London. The gloves were then off, and both sides mounted raids on each others cities.
The worst of these raids was on Dresden, where the heavy bombing resulted in a firestorm which completely destroyed the city. 769 Lancasters, split into two waves took part in the raid. 1,478 tons of high explosives and 1,182 tons of incendiaries. An estimated tens of thousands of civilians were killed, including many thousands of refugees.
The Dresden raid was even more destructive than the earlier raid on Hamburg 6 months previous.
Germany surrendered 11 weeks later, following the raid on Dresden.
War criminals are always on the other side, the losing side. Had the Allies lost, it is highly probable that Arthur Harris would have been charged as a war criminal.
But it should be noted that an international review by the Red Cross of the Law of Air Warfare concluded that [International Review of the Red Cross no 323, p.347-363 The Law of Air Warfare (1998)]:
In hindsight, although we may think it was a violation of the norms of warfare (for both sides to attack each others cities) there was no violation of International Law taking place.
Communist East Germany allowed the landmark Church of our Lady to remain in its derelict state as a monument to the bombing of Dresden. Following the fall of the Berlin Wall and the reuniting of East and West Germany, the church has been rebuilt as a symbol of hope of a better world. The church held its first service on Sunday 30 October 2005. [Dresden consecrates famed church and Frauenkirche - 'Dresden's miracle']
As the war in Europe drew to a close the last operational sorties of the Lancaster was Operation Manna, to drop food not bombs.
The Lancaster flew 156,308 operational sorties. Of the 7,377 Lancasters built, 3,249 were lost in action. Only 35 Lancasters completed more than 100 successful operations. The greatest survivor completed 139 operations and survived the war, only to be scrapped in 1947.
A secret report at the end of 1942 estimated that of every 100 aircrew only 13 would live to complete a tour of 50 operations.
At East Kirkby, home to 57 Squadron and 630 Squadron, 848 aircrew lost their lives.
More than 50 million died in World War Two.
Of the 31 Victoria Crosses awarded to the British and Commonwealth Air Forces, 22 went to Bomber Command, 11 of these went to Lancaster crews.
A development of the Lancaster was the Avro Lincoln bomber. There was also a civilian airliner based on the Lancaster, the Lancastrian. Other aircraft that had their roots in the Lancaster were the Avro York and the Avro Shackleton.
The success of the Lancaster and its visionary designer Roy Chadwick can be seen in the fact that the Avro Shackleton saw service until May 1990. A design concept spanning 50 years.
Roy Chadwick was killed in a fatal air crash in August 1947 during the test flight of a prototype Avro Tudor II. The Avro Tudor was the forerunner of the Avro Lancastrian. Air accident investigators were to later discover that the ailerons had been wired the wrong way round.
The World moved on, the Lancaster was eventually replaced by the V Bombers, the best known of these being the Avro Vulcan.
The Vulcan last saw active service in the Falklands War.
The Vulcan in turn has been replaced by modern strike aircraft, the Jaguar and Tornado. The Tornado will eventually be phased out to be replaced by the Eurofighter.
There are 16 known Avro Lancasters remaining in the world, only two of which remain in air-worthy condition
One of the 16 surviving Lancasters is Just Jane NX611, now at Lincolnshire Aviation Heritage Centre, the former RAF East Kirkby.
Just Jane, built at the end of the war by Austin Motors to Far Eastern standards for service in the Pacific, last flew in 1970.
Tiger Force, of which Just Jane was part, was short lived following surrender by Japan. Just Jane was then sold to the French in 1952 for maritime service.
Ten years service with the French, Lancaster NX611 ended up doing 'sentry' duty outside RAF Scampton, the base where the Dambusters 617 Squadron was formed, and now home to the Red Arrows.
Towards the end of service with the French, NX611 was one of only three Lancasters still flying. On its long haul back to the UK from New Caledonia, it was the only Lancaster still flying.
RAF Scampton was not to be the final resting place for Just Jane. She now resides at East Kirkby, where to the delight of the many visitors, she is pulled out of her hanger, fires up all four Rolls-Royce Merlin engines and performs regular taxi runs.
Another surviving Lancaster, PA474 of the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight at RAF Coningsby, still flies, one of only two in the world that still flies.
PA474 was built in Chester in mid-1945 and like Just Jane was earmarked for Tiger Force in the Far East. However, the war with Japan ended before she could take part in any hostilities and she was assigned to Photographic Reconnaissance duties with 82 Squadron in East and South Africa.
On return to the UK and loaned out as use as a drone, then used as a trials aircraft for modelling laminar airflow over her modified wings. In 1964, PA474 was adopted by the Air Historical Branch (AHB) for future display at the proposed RAF Museum at Hendon.
PA474 joined the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight in 1973, and was adopted by the City of Lincoln in 1975.
PA474 was named City of Lincoln in recognition of the role Lincoln and in particular Lincolnshire played in WWII. In 2000, PA474 was renamed Micky the Moocher and given 61 Squadron markings in honour of Micky the Moocher.
61 Squadron were based at RAF Skellingthorpe, just outside Lincoln.
The original Mickey the Moocher EE176 was one of only 35 Lancasters to have flown and survived in excess of 100 missions. Mickey the Moocher is believed to have survived somewhere between 115 and 128 missions.
Mickey the Moocher survived the war, only to then be unceremoniously assigned to the scrap heap.
Lancaster at War, DD Video, 2005
Lancaster Bombers, Delta Music, 2004
Peter Jacobs, The Lancaster Story, Silverdale Books, 2002
Patrick Bishop, Bomber Boys, Harper Press, 2007 [see BCID 5607211]
Terry Hancock, Bomber County, Midland, 2004 [see BCID 5758265]
Jonathan Falconer, Bomber Command Handbook, Sutton Publishing, 2003 [see BCID 5743096]
Ron Blake, Mike Hodgson, Bill Taylor, The Airfields of Lincolnshire, Midland Counties Publications, 1984 [see BCID 5758237]
During WWII many of the squadrons of Bomber Command were stationed in Lincolnshire, and up to the 1960s, many of the derelict airfields still remained. In total, 27 airfields in Lincolnshire were home to Lancasters either during or just after WWII. Lincolnshire is often referred to as Bomber County. A corner of Lincoln Cathedral is dedicated to those who lost their lives.
Not far from Woodhall Spa the former RAF East Kirkby is now home to Lincolnshire Aviation Heritage Centre. In addition to an operational Spitfire, the site houses Just Jane and many other interesting exhibits, including recovered remains of crashed aircraft.
Thorpe Camp, also not far from Woodhall Spa, has more exhibits.
Woodhall Spa, a former spa town, has a very impressive war memorial to the Dambusters. Also at Woodhall Spa, the Petwood Hotel which was requisitioned during WWII as the Officers Mess for 617 Squadron. The Squadron Bar at Petwood has memorabilia from the period.
The Blue Bell Inn, an ancient roadside inn at Tattershall Thorpe, as well as serving excellent food and ales, has Dambuster connections, with signatures of members of the squadron on the ceiling.
RAF Coningsby, still an active RAF base, is home to the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight - a Lancaster escorted by a Hurricane and a Spitfire.
RAF Scampton, once home to the Dambusters, is now home to the Red Arrows.
RAF Waddington, the first base to take Lancasters, is still an operational base. It used to be the home to Vulcan V Bombers, and one still stands on display, it now houses AWACs, the Tornado and is due to take the Eurofighter.
Timeline: the battle between left and right
Late summer 1944 German forces withdraw from most of Greece, which is taken over by local partisans. Most of them are members of ELAS, the armed wing of the National Liberation Front, EAM, which included the Communist KKE party
October 1944 Allied forces, led by General Ronald Scobie, enter Athens, the last German-occupied area, on 13 October. Georgios Papandreou returns from exile with the Greek government
2 December 1944 Rather than integrate ELAS into the new army, Papandreou and Scobie demand the disarmament of all guerrilla forces. Six members of the new cabinet resign in protest
3 December 1944 Violence in Athens after 200,000 march against the demands. More than 28 are killed and hundreds are injured. The 37-day Dekemvrianá begins. Martial law is declared on 5 December
January/February 1945 Gen Scobie agrees to a ceasefire in exchange for ELAS withdrawal. In February the Treaty of Varkiza is signed by all parties. ELAS troops leave Athens with 15,000 prisoners
1945/46 Right-wing gangs kill more than 1,100 civilians, triggering civil war when government forces start battling the new Democratic Army of Greece (DSE), mainly former ELAS soldiers
1948-49 DSE suffers a catastrophic defeat in the summer of 1948, with nearly 20,000 killed. In July 1949 Tito closes the Yugoslav border, denying DSE shelter. Ceasefire signed on 16 October 1949
21 April 1967 Right-wing forces seize power in a coup d’état. The junta lasts until 1974. Only in 1982 are communist veterans who had fled overseas allowed to return to Greece
After he and the Wardog pilots were accused of espionage, Pops was brought aboard the Kestrel along with his fellow fugitives. ⎛] He assumed the role of Razgriz Squadron's operational commander, overseeing mission briefings and providing the pilots with intel from the Kestrel's Command and Information Center (CIC). ΐ] Following the Kestrel's sinking on December 30, Pops was brought aboard the Andromeda and continued to support Razgriz Squadron's operations by relaying tactical information to AWACS Oka Nieba. Η]