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4 March 1943

4 March 1943

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4 March 1943

War in the Air

Eighth Air Force Heavy Bomber Mission No. 39: 71 aircraft sent to bomb the marshalling yards at Hamm. 14 attack the primary target, 28 attack the shipyards at Rotterdam. Five aircraft lost.

War at Sea

German submarine U-83 sunk with all hands off Cartagena

German submarine U-87 sunk with all hands in the Atlantic Ocean

4 March 1943 - History

Battle of the Bismarck Sea (2-4 March 1943)

The Battle of the Bismarck Sea (2-4 March 1943) took place in the South West
Pacific Area (SWPA) during World War II when aircraft of the U.S. Fifth Air
Force and the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) attacked a Japanese convoy
carrying troops to Lae, New Guinea. Most of the task force was destroyed,
and Japanese troop losses were heavy.

The Japanese convoy was a result of a Japanese Imperial General Headquarters
decision in December 1942 to reinforce their position in the South West
Pacific. A plan was devised to move some 6,900 troops from Rabaul directly
to Lae. The plan was understood to be risky, because Allied air power in the
area was strong, but it was decided to proceed because otherwise the troops
would have to be landed a considerable distance away and march through
inhospitable swamp, mountain and jungle terrain without roads before
reaching their destination. On 28 February 1943, the convoy - comprising
eight destroyers and eight troop transports with an escort of approximately
100 fighters - set out from Simpson Harbour in Rabaul.

----- The Allied Air Forces also adopted other innovative tactics. In
February 1942, the RAAF began experimenting with skip bombing, an
anti-shipping technique used by the British and Germans.[31] Flying only a
few dozen feet above the sea toward their targets, bombers would release
their bombs which would then, ideally, ricochet across the surface of the
water and explode at the side of the target ship, under it, or just over
it.[18] A similar technique was mast-height bombing, in which bombers would
approach the target at low altitude, 200 to 500 feet (61 to 152 m), at about
265 to 275 miles per hour (426 to 443 km/h), and then drop down to mast
height, 10 to 15 feet (3.0 to 4.6 m) at about 600 yards (550 m) from the
target. They would release their bombs at around 300 yards (270 m), aiming
directly at the side of the ship. The Battle of the Bismarck Sea would
demonstrate that this was the more successful of the two tactics.[32] The
two techniques were not mutually exclusive: a bomber could drop two bombs,
skipping the first and launching the second at mast height.[33] Practice
missions were carried out against the wreck of the SS Pruth, a liner that
had run aground in 1923.[34]

The wiki says Japan started with 8 transports (all got sunk)
and 8 destroyers (4 got sunk).

Samuel Eliot Morison is more interesting in describing it than the wiki.

Did anyone here read Neal Stephenson's "Cryptonomicon" ?
This is the battle when Goto Dengo 'loses the war' on page 320
titled "Skipping". Cowardly Americans have no honor and are
flexable and willing to change.

The consequences of Ultra begin pitting the Germans against the Italians. The British receive advance warning of the actions in Medenine through the deciphering of Enigma. They then begin to spread the word that they learned of these plans from senior Italian officials. The same applied to Alam el Halfa battle in August 1942. Tension begins to mount between the Germans and Italians, who deny the allegations.

Considerable losses inflicted on the British 56th Division by Italian forces in Mareth.

March 1 – U.S. bombers sink Italian destroyer Geniere in Palermo. U.S. bombers sink Italian Torpedo Boat Monsone near Naples.

March 5 – Fiat Aeronautics plant in Turin goes on strike. This is the first strike since Mussolini enters the office in 1922. Mussolini calls on his Fascists troops to stop the strike, but they refuse to make the workers stop protesting. Other strikes erupt, grounding Italy’s war-making capabilities.

March 8 – Italian Torpedo Boat Ciclone sinks off the coast of Tunisia after hitting a mine.

March 24 – Italian destroyers Lanzerotto Malocello and Ascari sink off the coast of Tunisia after hitting a minefield.

Important Events From This day in History March 4th

2nd John Adams 1797 to 1801
3rd Thomas Jefferson 1801 to 1809
4th James Madison 1809 to 1817
5th James Monroe 1817 to 1825
6th John Quincy Adams 1825 to 1829
7th Andrew Jackson 1829 to 1837
8th Martin Van Buren 1837 to 1841
9th William Henry Harrison 1841 to April 4, 1841 ( Died in Office )
11th James K. Polk 1845 to 1849
12th Zachary Taylor 1849 to July 9th 1850 ( Died in Office )
14th Franklin Pierce 1853 to 1857
15th James Buchanan 1857 to 1861
16th Abraham Lincoln 1861 to April 15th 1865 ( Assassinated )
18th Ulysses S. Grant 1869 to 1877
19th Rutherford B. Hayes 1877 to 1881
20th James A. Garfield 1881 to September 19th 1881 ( Assassinated )
22nd Grover Cleveland 1885 to 1889
23rd Benjamin Harrison 1889 to 1893
24th Grover Cleveland 1893 to 1897
25th William McKinley 1897 to September 14th 1901 ( Assassinated )
27th William Howard Taft 1909 to 1913
28th Woodrow Wilson 1913 to 1921
29th Warren G. Harding 1921 to August 2nd 1923 ( Died in Office )
31st Herbert Hoover 1929 to 1933
32nd Franklin D. Roosevelt 1933 to April 12th 1945 ( Died In Office )
The following were not inaugurated on March 4th for differing reasons including natural death, assassinations etc of previous president causing change in date

1st George Washington April 30th 1789 to 1797
10th John Tyler April 4th 1841 to 1845
13th Millard Fillmore July 9th 1850 to 1853
17th Andrew Johnson April 15th 1865 to 1869
21st Chester A. Arthur September 19th 1881 to 1885
26th Theodore Roosevelt September 14th 1901 to 1909
30th Calvin Coolidge August 2nd 1923 to 1929
33rd Harry S. Truman April 12th 1945 to January 20th 1953
In 1953 the date for Presidential Inaugurations was changed to January 20th. Check January 20th for later Presidential Inaugurations.

4 March 1943 - History


"The Ivy Division"

(Updated 9-3-08)

The 4th Infantry Division, whose motto is "Steadfast and Loyal," is a heavy mechanized division in the United States Regular Army. The 4th ID has a storied history from WWI, WWII, Vietnam, and Operation Iraqi Freedom. Arguably the most modernized division in the army, the 4ID is currently organized with four Brigade Combat Teams (BCT), a fires brigade, an aviation brigade, and various supporting units. Currently home based at Fort Hood, Texas, the "Ivy Division" is in the process of re-stationing to Fort Carson, Colorado, around unit deployments to Iraq.

The 4th Infantry Division is nicknamed the "Ivy Division." This comes from the design of the shoulder sleeve insignia which has four green ivy leaves joined at the stem and opening at the four corners. The word "Ivy" is a play on the Roman numeral four, IV. Ivy leaves are symbolic of tenacity and fidelity, the basis of the Division's motto, "Steadfast and Loyal." The Division's second nickname, "Iron Horse," has been recently adopted to indicate the speed and power of the division.

The 4th Division was formed at Camp Greene, North Carolina on December 10, 1917 for service in World War One. The 4th Infantry Division went into action in the Aisne-Marne campaign in July 1918, at which time its units were piecemealed and attached to several French infantry divisions. Almost a month later, the Division was reunited for the final days of the campaign. During the next four months, the 4th I.D. saw action on the front lines and as reserves. Suffering over 11,500 casualties in the final drive for the Allied victory, the 4th Infantry Division was the only division to serve in both the French and British sectors of the front.

By the end of WWI, 2,611 Ivy Division soldiers were killed in action and 9,895 others were wounded. The 4th Division remained in Europe for occupation duty until returning to the United States on July 31, 1919. The 4th Division was inactivated at Camp Lewis, Washington on September 21, 1921.

The 4th Infantry Division was reactivated on June 1, 1940 at Fort Benning, Georgia as part of the U.S. Army buildup prior to the country's entry into World War II. From June of 1940 until late in 1943, the 4th Infantry Division served as an experimental division for the Army, testing new equipment and tactics. Finally, after years of training, the Ivy Division moved to England in January of 1944 to prepare for Operation Overlord, the D-Day landings in Normandy.

The amphibious invasion of Europe began on June 6, 1944. The Division's 8th Infantry Regiment was the first Allied ground unit to assault German forces on the Normandy Beaches. The remainder of the Division quickly followed, landing on Utah Beach. For 26 days the Division pushed inland, reaching the Port of Cherbourg and sustaining over 5,000 casualties. Breaking out of the Beachhead and expanding operations well into France, the Division was given the honor of being the first Allied unit to participate in the liberation of Paris. The Ivy Division quickly moved on through northern France reaching Belgium and the border of Germany by September 1944. In November, the 4th Infantry Division moved into the Hurtgen Forest and fought what was to be its fiercest battle. The 4th Infantry Division held its ground during the Battle of the Bulge crossed the Rhine, then the Danube, and finally ceased its advance at the Isar River in southern Germany.

When the 4th Infantry Division's WWII combat operations ended on May 2, 1945, 4,097 soldiers had been killed in action, 17,371 were wound, and 757 would later die from their wounds. The Division returned to the United States in July 1945 and was stationed at Camp Butner, North Carolina, preparing for deployment to the Pacific. However, the Japanese surrendered before the 4th ID was deployed. After the war ended the 4ID was inactivated on March 5, 1946. The Division was reactivated as a training division at Fort Ord, California on July 15, 1947.

On October 1, 1950, the 4th Infantry Division was re-designated a combat division, training at Fort Benning, Georgia. In May 1951 it deployed to Germany as the first of four U.S. divisions committed to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) during the early years of the Cold War. The division headquarters was located in Frankfurt, West Germany. After a five-year tour in Germany, the division redeployed to Fort Lewis, Washington in May of 1956. The 66th Armor Regiment and 4th Signal Company of the 4th Infantry Division served in the Korean War.

The 4th Infantry Division deployed from Fort Lewis to Camp Holloway, Pleiku, Vietnam on September 25, 1966 and served more than four years, returning to Fort Carson, Colorado on December 8, 1970. Two brigades operated in the Central Highlands/II Corps Zone, but its 3rd Brigade, including the division's armor battalion, was sent to Tay Ninh Province northwest of Saigon to take part in Operation Attleboro (September to November, 1966), and later Operation Junction City (February to May, 1967), both in War Zone C.

Throughout its service in Vietnam the Ivy Division conducted combat operations in the western Central Highlands along the border between Cambodia and Vietnam. The 4th Infantry Division experienced intense combat against NVA regular forces in the mountains surrounding Kontum in the autumn of 1967. The division's 3rd Brigade was withdrawn from Vietnam in April, 1970 and deactivated at Fort Lewis. In May the remainder of the division conducted cross-border operations during the Cambodian Incursion. The Ivy Division returned from Vietnam in December and was rejoined in Fort Carson by its former 3rd Brigade from Hawaii, where it had re-deployed as part of the withdrawal of the 25th Infantry Division. One battalion remained in Vietnam as a separate organization until January, 1972. During the four and a half years of combat operations during the Vietnam War, 2,531 Ivy Division soldiers were killed in action and another 15,229 were wounded.

After Vietnam the Division settled at Fort Carson, Colorado where it reorganized as a mechanized infantry division and remained at Carson for 25 years. It was during the Division's time at Fort Carson that it had the unofficial nickname of the "Ironhorse" Division. The 4th Infantry Division moved its colors to Fort Hood, Texas in December 1995 to become the Army's first Digitized Division under the Force XXI program. In this program the Division was thoroughly involved in the training, testing, and evaluation of 72 initiatives to include the Division's Capstone Exercise (DCX I) held at the National Training Center in Fort Irwin, California in April, 2001 and culminating in the DCX II held at Fort Hood in October 2001.

Division elements have supported rotations to Bosnia and Kuwait as well as providing a Task Force to fight forest fires in Idaho in 2000. 4ID Soldiers supported the Winter Olympics in Utah. Since November 2001, the Division's mission was the Division Ready Brigade-prepared to deploy at a moment's notice to anywhere in the world.

The 4th Infantry Division was alerted for the Iraq War on January 19, 2003. The Division's mission was to lead an advance from Turkey into Northern Iraq. Unfortunately the Turkish government did not give their permission for U.S. Forces to use Turkey to attack Iraq, and the Ivy Division had to reroute to the war through Kuwait. Arriving after the invasion had started, the 4th Infantry Division entered Iraq as follow-on forces in April of 2003. The 4th ID was deployed in the northern area of the Sunni Triangle near Tikrit. The Ivy Division became a major part of occupation forces during the post-war period.

In Operation Red Dawn, conducted on December 2003, the Iron Horse Division in coordination with a special unit captured the top High Value Target of Iraq, Saddam Hussein. Hussein was located about 10 miles south of Tikrit, cowering in a "spider hole." His capture has been described by news media as the number one news story of 2003. The Division returned to the United States by April of 2004 with a most successful completion of their tour as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom I. Sadly, 81 Iron Horse soldiers gave their lives in OIF 1.

The 4th Infantry Division's second deployment to Iraq began in the fall of 2005. The Division headquarters replaced the 3rd Infantry Division, which had been directing security operations as the headquarters for Multi-National Division - Baghdad. The 4th ID assumed responsibility on January 7, 2006 for four provinces in central and southern Iraq: Baghdad, Karbala, An-Najaf and Babil. On January 7, 2006, MND-Baghdad also assumed responsibility for training Iraqi security forces and conducting security operations in the four provinces. The 3rd Brigade of the 4th Infantry Division was assigned to conduct security operations under the command of Task Force Band of Brothers, led initially by the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault). During this deployment 229 soldiers were killed in action.

Today, the 4th Infantry Division is the most lethal, modern and deployable heavy division in the world it is prepared to conduct full-spectrum combat operations. The Iron Horse has earned twenty-one campaign streamers with sixteen 4th Infantry Division Soldiers presented the Congressional Medal of Honor. The Ivy Division began their third deployment to Iraq in late 2007 and is scheduled to return to the U.S. in 2009. The Division will continue its move to Fort Carson upon their return. The soldiers of the 4th Infantry Division continue to serve their country and live up to their unit's motto of "Steadfast and Loyal."

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1943: World War II’s Forgotten Year of Victory

The year 1943 opened badly for the once unstoppable Axis forces of Nazi Germany, fascist Italy and Imperial Japan. And by the close of that unfairly overlooked but momentous year of World War II, the fortunes of the Axis belligerents had become much worse. Although 1942 had been, in Winston Churchill’s phrase, the war’s “Hinge of Fate” – as the Allies, led by the United States, Britain and the Soviet Union, won near-run victories over Japan at Midway in the Pacific, Germany and Italy at El Alamein in North Africa, and Adolf Hitler’s East Front legions at Stalingrad in Russia – it was the global land, sea and air combat in 1943 that proved pivotal to the war’s outcome. As 1942 drew to a close, the Axis powers still had a chance to win the war however, by the end of 1943, that chance had been irrevocably lost. Tellingly, during the crucial 12 months of 1943, the strategic initiative on nearly all the war’s fronts permanently shifted from the Axis to the Allies.

Key events and hard fighting – Allied setbacks as well as successes – in all theaters of the war made 1943 World War II’s vital “forgotten” year of victory.


On January 14, 1943, U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill met at Casablanca in newly liberated French Morocco. The other Allied “Big Three” leader, Soviet dictator Josef Stalin, excused himself from the conference, as the crucial Battle of Stalingrad still raged. Even with Stalin’s absence, the Casablanca meeting produced important decisions regarding how the “Grand Alliance” would prosecute the global war, by establishing the broad outline for the Allies’ 1943 operations on all fronts and on land, sea and in the air. Significantly, the leaders publicly proclaimed the Allies would accept nothing less than “unconditional surrender” from the Axis powers, and they reaffirmed the war’s priorities: First eliminate Hitler’s Nazi Germany, then defeat Imperial Japan.

Although from Moscow Stalin again demanded the United States and Britain launch a “second front” against Germany by invading continental Europe, Churchill convinced FDR to postpone a cross-Channel invasion until 1944. Once Allied armies won the North Africa campaign, they would proceed to Sicily to continue offensive operations in the Mediterranean Theater. However, to strike Germany directly, Churchill and FDR agreed to launch a combined Royal Air Force-U.S. Air Forces strategic aerial bombing offensive.


With two-thirds of the German army engaged in brutal combat with millions of Red Army troops, World War II’s Eastern Front remained the war’s greatest clash of arms in 1943. On January 9, after encircling Stalingrad, Soviet General Konstantin Rokossovsky began Operation Ring, a direct assault on the trapped German forces. A month later, German Field Marshal Friedrich Paulus surrendered the remnants of 6th Army at Stalingrad. The Soviet victory exposed German vulnerability – Hitler’s powerful East Front legions could be beaten by Stalin’s resurgent Red Army.

In the north, Soviet troops opened a narrow corridor to besieged Leningrad, although the deadly German siege continued for another year. Meanwhile in southern Russia, the Red Army’s Voronezh Front broke through 2d Hungarian Army and raced toward Kursk and Kharkov. The Soviet Southwestern Front closed on Rostov, threatening to cut off German forces in the Caucasus yet overextension, stretched logistics, freezing weather and the operational genius of German Field Marshal Erich von Manstein helped the Germans avert a complete disaster.

In the wake of the Stalingrad disaster and Caucasus near disaster, Hitler sought to regain the East Front initiative with Operation Citadel, an attack to pinch off the Kursk salient. Delayed from May until July awaiting new panzer production, German forces attacked July 5 but stalled amid strong multiple Soviet defensive belts. The Red Army launched a counteroffensive on the Kursk salient’s flanks in August, seizing Orel and the much contested city of Kharkov.

The Germans’ failure at Kursk threatened to unhinge their entire East Front line as Soviet counteroffensives carried Red Army troops west to the Dnepr River line. Clearly, by August 1943 the strategic initiative on the East Front had permanently passed to Stalin’s armies.


Despite the fact that German fortunes on the East Front hung in the balance at Stalingrad, Hitler nevertheless diverted Germany’s war effort by rushing reinforcements to Tunisia in the wake of the November 1942 Allied landings in North Africa. The first Allied advance stalled as winter weather reduced roads to quagmires, halting operations for three months with both sides rushing to build up forces.

In February, a renewed Allied offensive into Tunisia faced two German commanders – Field Marshal Erwin Rommel and General Jürgen von Arnim, both under Hitler’s orders to fight to the last. Rommel proved the most dangerous opponent. Before his February 19-25 attack through Kasserine Pass was finally stopped, it overran inexperienced American troops, teaching them and their equally inexperienced U.S. commanders how much they still had to learn about fighting the battle-wise German army.

While an ill Rommel recuperated in Germany, Axis forces in Tunisia were trapped against the coast with no air cover and no hope for reinforcements. On May 7, Allied forces captured Tunis and Bizerte, forcing remaining Axis forces in North Africa to surrender unconditionally.

On May 12, Churchill and Roosevelt met again, at the Trident Conference in Washington, D.C., to review Allied strategy. They discussed the strategic bombing strategy for the Pacific Theater and confirmed planning for the invasions of Sicily, then Italy, and ultimately (based on the situation achieved in Italy) the cross-Channel invasion of France.

On July 10, while the titanic East Front Battle of Kursk raged, American and British forces landed on the coast of Sicily. U.S. 7th Army, under General George S. Patton Jr., took Palermo July 22, prompting Italy’s Fascist Grand Council to oust dictator Benito Mussolini two days later. German combat units successfully evacuated Sicily just days before Allied troops captured Messina, placing all of Sicily under Allied control.

Hitler’s reaction to Sicily’s fall and Mussolini’s ouster was to order German troops to occupy Italy, ensuring the country remained in the Axis camp. In September, the Allies invaded Italy at Salerno but barely managed to hold their bridgehead in the face of fierce German counterattacks – tremendous Allied artillery, naval gunfire and air support proved decisive. By mid-October, Allied armies held a continuous line across the Italian peninsula, from north of Naples to Termoli on the Adriatic. For the next 18 months, the brilliant German defense led by Field Marshal Albert Kesselring would frustrate Allied offensives in Italy and turn the Italian campaign into a costly slugfest fought over some of Europe’s most rugged terrain.


U.S. naval victories at Coral Sea and Midway in 1942 had checked Japanese expansion in the Pacific, opening the way for Allied land, sea and air forces to begin rolling back Japan’s conquests. America’s two theater commanders – Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, commanding Central Pacific Area, and General Douglas MacArthur, leading South West Pacific Area – launched offensives in the Solomon Islands (Guadalcanal) and New Guinea (Buna-Gona) in the closing months of 1942 that concluded victoriously in early 1943. (See Battlefield Leader, July 2012 ACG.) Australian and U.S. troops’ victory at Buna-Gona on January 22 marked Japan’s first defeat on land and began MacArthur’s brilliant maneuvers along New Guinea’s northern coastline that would propel his forces back to the Philippines in October 1944.

Despite FDR’s avowed “Germany First” strategy, offensive operations in the Pacific Theater proved irrepressible. Indeed, since Japanese aggression had embroiled the United States in World War II, American public opinion demanded action against Japan. MacArthur and Nimitz were more than willing to oblige.

As MacArthur’s forces moved inexorably along New Guinea’s long coastline, and a Japanese convoy was decisively defeated in March 1943 at the Battle of the Bismarck Sea, Nimitz’s naval and amphibious task forces continued advancing through the Solomon Islands to New Georgia (June-August) and Bougainville (November). Due to another coup by U.S. code breakers, Japanese Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto was ambushed and killed while on an inspection tour when his plane was shot down April 18 by American fighters sent to intercept him.

On November 20, Nimitz launched 2d U.S. Marine Division at Tarawa Atoll in the Gilbert Islands during Operation Galvanic. Meeting the Marines at Tarawa’s beaches, 4,500 Japanese defenders fought to the death, killing 1,000 Marines and wounding another 2,000 in 76 hours of savage combat. The Battle of Tarawa stunned the American public, driving home the stark realization of just how costly totally defeating Japan would be. The film With the Marines at Tarawa, featuring authentic, gruesome combat footage of the invasion, required President Roosevelt’s personal approval before government censors would release the movie for public viewing. Even then, it was not released until March 1944.

Meanwhile, Allied fortunes in Southeast Asia and China faltered. In Burma, British and Commonwealth forces were battered by powerful Japanese offensives that threatened to drive north into India. However, the August 24 appointment of British Admiral Lord Mountbatten as that theater’s supreme Allied commander and the November creation of British 14th Army under the brilliant General William Slim would eventually turn the tide against the Japanese – but not until 1944. China continued to face the bulk of Japan’s army as Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek’s Nationalists and Mao Zedong’s Communists waged both conventional and guerrilla war against Japanese invaders. Allied support to China was key to keeping it in the war, but the tenuous supply line, the Burma Road, remained threatened by Japanese success in Burma.


In early 1943, over 100 of German Admiral Karl Dönitz’s U-boats still prowled the Atlantic convoy lanes, exploiting gaps in Allied air coverage and attacking merchant shipping using “wolf pack” tactics. A total of 107 Allied merchant ships were sunk in March alone, bringing the German navy perilously close to breaking the Allies’ vital North Atlantic supply link. To counter Germany’s strategy, the Allies increased the number of escort vessels, improved the training of ship commanders and crews, capitalized on technical improvements in direction-finding and radar equipment, and redoubled code breakers’ efforts to crack new German naval codes.

Allied countermeasures combined to have a telling effect: In April, the “merchant tonnage lost vs. U-boats sunk” ratio was cut in half in May, radar-equipped escort ships notably destroyed five U-boats within hours. Also during May, the mid-Atlantic air coverage gap was finally closed when Allies stationed Canadian-flown B-24 Liberators in Newfoundland. Time was running out on Germany’s U-boat offensive.

By mid-1943, Allied materiel, tactical and technological superiority dominated the Atlantic struggle – U-boat “wolf packs” had met their match in steadily improving Allied countermeasures. By the end of what German captains called “Black May” (during which 43 German submarines were sunk), Dönitz acknowledged, “We had lost the Battle of the Atlantic.” He withdrew his U-boats from the North Atlantic convoy routes.


Although Stalin continued to pressure the Western Allies for an invasion of Europe in 1943, FDR and Churchill remained committed to invading in mid-1944. The best direct action against Germany they could offer their Soviet ally was to press on with the British-American bomber offensive targeting Germany and Nazi-occupied European countries agreed to at the Casablanca Conference.

Although the air offensive’s directive listed key enemy war industry “priority targets,” Air Chief Marshal Arthur “Bomber” Harris, commander of RAF Bomber Command, believed the air effort should instead concentrate on destroying German cities, killing enemy workers and wrecking civilian morale. Harris recognized that the difficulty in attempting “precision” aerial bombing was the abysmal lack of accuracy. Even in daylight raids, “pinpoint” bombing from 20,000 feet or higher deposited only half the bombs within a quarter-mile of the aiming point. Under the poor visibility conditions so often encountered in northern Europe, bombs aimed at a three-mile radius target resulted in half the bomb load merely plowing up surrounding farmland.

Harris persisted in concentrating Bomber Command’s efforts in night raids against “area” targets: the Ruhr industrial region, Hamburg, and Berlin. In a weeklong series of raids on Hamburg at the end of July called Operation Gomorrah, 2,500 tons of bombs from RAF bombers created a horrific firestorm that destroyed the city while incinerating 42,000 German civilians, wounding another 37,000, and “de-housing” 1.2 million. It was the most destructive air attack in history to that point. Unfortunately, worse civilian death tolls followed as the Allied strategic bombing campaign progressed against Germany– and Japan from mid-1944 – for the remainder of the war.

U.S. bombers based in England and others flying from bases in North Africa flew daylight bombing raids against targets in Germany and Axis-occupied countries. With General Henry “Hap” Arnold, U.S. Air Forces’ commanding general, single-mindedly pursing strategic bombing as the path to eventual Air Force independence, the American bombing effort sought to bring the German war effort to its knees by attacking key war industries. U.S. bomber targets included submarine construction yards and bases aircraft factories ball bearing factories oil production and storage plants synthetic rubber and tire factories and military transport vehicle factories and stores. Bombing accuracy remained problematic, however, and pinpoint accuracy proved beyond the capability of the era’s air war technology.

Yet despite the rising enemy civilian death toll and the dubious accuracy of attacks on enemy industry, one major impact of the Allied bombing campaign was its attrition of German fighter aircraft strength. By 1943, the German Luftwaffe clearly could not provide effective air cover on all fighting fronts. When by mid-year German fighters were concentrated over Germany confronting the seemingly endless waves of Allied bombers – increasingly accompanied by Allied fighter protection throughout most and eventually all of the bombers’ long missions – Luftwaffe air support to other fronts, particularly the East Front, suffered.

In August, American bombers flew from bases in Libya to the oil fields in Ploesti, Romania, in a costly raid on Germany’s principal oil refineries. The price in aircraft and blood was high, at 54 bombers and 532 air crewmen lost.


Despite the worsening war situation for Axis forces – Hitler’s “strategy” was to issue a series of futile “stand fast” orders that usually proved only preludes to another German retreat – the “dark side” of World War II behind the fighting fronts grew even darker in 1943.

The Nazis’“Final Solution,” the relentless deportation and killing of Jews, intensified throughout German-occupied Europe. Germans’ notorious“efficiency”was applied to the Nazis’ extermination effort, as concentration camps became quite literally“death factories.”Any resistance, such as the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising in April-May, was ruthlessly repressed by both SS and German army units.Yet even as the pace of mass murders in the death camps increased, Reichsführer SS Heinrich Himmler decided in the summer of 1943 to begin covering up the evidence of the extermination of Jews and Soviet prisoners of war. He sent special squads to every mass murder site to dig up and burn the bodies.

One result was that anti-German partisan activities grew rapidly, to the increasing embarrassment of German forces throughout occupied Europe. Brutal reprisals – shooting hostages, burning villages, deporting survivors to Germany for slave labor – bred more partisans. Behind German lines, the power of partisans and anti-Nazi forces grew in Poland, Belarus, Ukraine and the Balkans as Allied armies rolled back Axis conquests.

With German fortunes sagging, anti-Hitler groups appeared. In Munich, a small cell of pacifist German university students and faculty called the White Rose raised a rare dissenting voice, but it was quickly snuffed out by the Gestapo when the group’s members were captured and executed in February. On March 13, however, a potentially more lethal threat to Hitler arose when disaffected German army officers planted a bomb on his aircraft. The assassination attempt failed, but the plotters persevered, eventually trying again July 20, 1944.

In April, the Germans accelerated the roundup and deportation of forced laborers throughout German-occupied Western Europe. Hundreds of thousands worked as slave laborers in German war factories, enduring inhuman and dangerous conditions that killed tens of thousands.

Japanese brutality against the indigenous population in occupied territories was also horrific in China alone, an estimated 12 million Chinese civilians were murdered during the war. Allied prisoners of war suffered horribly in Japanese camps without proper medical care and amid terrible punishments. In October, the Japanese completed the Burma-Thailand railroad that 46,000 Allied prisoners of war had been forced to build. Sixteen thousand POWs died of starvation, brutality and disease, and more than 50,000 Burmese impressed laborers died working on the “Railroad of Death.”

Although various schemes were proposed to the Allies to intervene in the genocidal Axis repression – such as bombing the concentration camps and the rail networks that supported them – Allied leaders determined that the quickest way to end the suffering and torment was to win the war. The air, land and sea campaigns in 1943 went a long way toward achieving that end.


Sandwiched between the “Hinge of Fate” year of 1942 and the stirring campaigns of 1944 (notably D-Day) that set up the Allies’ final victory, 1943 too often unfairly gets short shrift in histories of World War II. Yet those crucial 12 months proved a vital crucible of war during which Allied armies, navies and air forces learned how to fight – and more importantly, how to win. American forces in particular benefitted by learning valuable lessons in tough, demanding combat taught to them by formidable German and Japanese forces that had been hardened during years of unremitting war.

Indeed, the nearly unbroken string of Allied victories in 1944 is hard to imagine without the devastating attrition inflicted on Axis land, sea and air forces during 1943. When 1942 ended, Axis air forces still maintained rough air parity with the Allies as December 1943 drew to a close, Allied air forces dominated the skies over Europe and the Pacific. Replacing the catastrophic German troop losses on the Eastern Front throughout 1943 weakened Hitler’s Atlantic Wall defenses, greatly increasing the chance of success for the D-Day invasion in 1944. The serious threat German U-boats posed to North Atlantic convoys as 1943 began evaporated in the face of effective Allied countermeasures. Italian forces were knocked out of the war in 1943, while MacArthur’s and Nimitz’s campaigns inexorably penetrated the Pacific defensive ring that Japanese leaders had staked their country’s fortune on holding.

Perhaps 1943’s greatest achievement was gaining time – notably, time for American and Soviet factories to hit their stride in pouring out a flood of tanks, planes, ships, guns and ammunition that would eventually drown Axis forces in a sea of war materiel. A comment made by a German 88 mm anti-tank gun commander who fought against the Americans is telling: “I kept knocking out the American tanks, but more kept on coming. I ran out of ammunition. The Americans did not run out of tanks.”

During World War II’s “forgotten” year of victory, the Allies wrested the strategic initiative from the enemy and held it for the rest of the war. 1943 put Allied armies, navies and air forces on the march to final triumph.

Colonel (Ret.) Richard N. Armstrong, author of “Soviet Operational Deception: The Red Cloak,” is an adjunct history professor at the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor.

Originally published in the January 2013 issue of Armchair General.

4 March 1943 - History

Famous Birthdays by Month:

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March 8, 1945 - Mickey Dolenz, singer, actor, "Mickey" of the "Monkees"

March 8, 1959 - Lester Holt news anchor, NBC Nightly News

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March 9, 1943 - Bobby Fischer, World Chess champion

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March 18, 1970 - Queen Latifah, rap singer, actress

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March 19, 1848 - Wyatt Earp, Wild West lawman

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March 19, 1906 - Adolf Eichmann, Nazi leader

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March 20, 1922 - Carl Reiner, actor, comedian

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March 20, 1931 - Hal Linden, actor, singer

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March 20, 1948 - Bobby Orr, hockey player

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March 22, 1913 - Karl Malden, actor

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March 22, 1923 - Marcel Marceau, French mime

March 22, 1930 - Pat Robertson, evangelist, presidential candidate

March 22, 1931 - William Shatner, actor James T. Kirk, on Star Trek

March 22, 1934 - Orrin Hatch, senator

March 22, 1943 - George Benson, singer, musician

March 22, 1948 - Andrew Lloyd Webber, English composer

March 22, 1952 - Bob Costas, sportscaster

March 22, 1976 - Reese Witherspoon, Oscar winning actress.

March 22, 1959 - Matthew Modine, actor

March 23, 1904 - Joan Crawford, Oscar winning actress

March 23, 1900 - Erich Fromm, psychoanalyst

March 23, 1912 - Werner von Braun, rocket pioneer, scientist

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March 23, 1953 - Chaka Khan, singer

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March 24, 1976 - Peyton Manning, Indianapolis Colts All Star Quarterback

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March 25, 1942 - Aretha Franklin, singer

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March 25, 1965 - Sarah Jessica Parker, actress

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March 26, 1874 - Robert Frost, poet

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March 26, 1931 - Leonard Nimoy, actor, director, "Spock" in "Star Trek"

March 26, 1934 - Alan Arkin, actor

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March 26, 1940 - Nancy Pelosi, American Democratic party congresswoman, twice Speaker of the House.

March 26, 1944 - Diana Ross, singer, actress

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March 27, 1940 - Cale Yarborough, auto racer

March 27, 1963 - Randall Cunningham, NFL Quarterback

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March 28, 1921 - Dirk Bogarde, actor

March 28, 1944 - Ken Howard, actor

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March 29, 1945 - Walt Frazier, basketball player

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March 29, 1968 - Lucy Lawless, actress

March 29, 1976 - Jennifer Capriati, tennis player

March 30, 1853 - Vincent van Gogh, Dutch painter

March 30, 1929 - Richard Dysart, actor

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March 30, 1945 - Eric Clapton, musician, singer, songwriter

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March 30, 1968 - Celine Dion, singer

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March 31, 1732 - Franz Joseph Haydn, composer

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March 31, 1878 - Jack Johnson, is Afro-American boxer to win heavyweight crown

March 31, 1927 - Cesar Chavez, labor leader

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March 31, 1932 - John Jakes, author

March 31, 1934 - Shirley Jones, actress, singer

March 31, 1935 - Herb Albert, musician

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Before the war, Major Ralph Bagnold learned how to maintain and operate vehicles, how to navigate, and how to communicate in the desert. On 23 June 1940 he met General Archibald Wavell, the commander of the Middle East Command in Alexandria and explained his concept for a group of men intended to undertake long-range reconnaissance patrols to gather intelligence behind the Italian lines in Libya. [5] General Wavell was familiar with desert warfare, having been a liaison officer with the Egyptian Expeditionary Force during the First World War, [6] and he understood and endorsed Bagnold's suggested concept. Wavell assisted in equipping the force. [5]

The unit, initially known as the No.1 Long Range Patrol Unit (LRP), was founded on 3 July 1940. [5] Bagnold wanted men who were energetic, innovative, self-reliant, physically and mentally tough, and able to live and fight in seclusion in the Libyan desert. [7] Bagnold felt that New Zealand farmers would possess these attributes and was given permission to approach the 2nd New Zealand Division for volunteers over half the division volunteered. [7] Two officers and 85 other ranks including 18 administrative and technical personnel were eventually selected, coming mostly from the Divisional Cavalry Regiment and the 27th Machine-Gun Battalion. [8] Once the men had been recruited, they started training in desert survival techniques and desert driving and navigation, with additional training in radio communications and demolitions. [5]

The LRP could initially form only three units, known as patrols, [nb 1] but a doubling of strength allowed the addition of a new Heavy Section. [10] In November 1940, the name of the LRP was changed to the "Long Range Desert Group" (LRDG), [11] and the New Zealanders were joined by volunteers from British and Southern Rhodesian regiments. [12] The British volunteers, who came mostly from the Brigade of Guards and Yeomanry regiments, were incorporated into their own patrols. [7] The original patrol unit consisted of two officers and 28 other ranks, equipped with a Canadian Military Pattern (CMP) Ford 15 Imperial hundredweight (cwt) truck and 10 Chevrolet 30 cwt trucks. In March 1941 new types of trucks were issued and the patrol units were split into half-patrols of one officer and 15–18 men in five or six vehicles. [10] Each patrol incorporated a medical orderly, a navigator, a radio operator and a vehicle mechanic, each of whom manned a truck equipped for their role. [13]

The Long Range Patrol comprised a 15-man headquarters with Bagnold in command. There were three sub-units: 'R' Patrol commanded by Captain Donald Gavin Steele, 'T' Patrol commanded by Captain Patrick Clayton and 'W' Patrol commanded by Captain Edward 'Teddy' Cecil Mitford. 'T' and 'W' Patrols were combat units while 'R' Patrol was intended to be a support unit. [14]

In November 1940, the LRP was reorganised and re-designated the Long Range Desert Group. It was expanded to six Patrols: 'T', 'W' and 'R' Patrols were joined by 'G', 'S' and 'Y' Patrols. Each patrol was expected to belong to the same regimental group, but only the Brigade of Guards and the Yeomanry regiments formed their own Patrols, 'G' and 'Y' respectively. [14] The men of 'G' Patrol were drawn from the 3rd Battalion Coldstream Guards and the 2nd Battalion Scots Guards under command of Captain Michael Crichton-Stuart. [11] The 'Y' Patrol men were drawn from the Nottinghamshire Yeomanry [ clarification needed ] under command Captain P. J. D. McCraith, with additional men from the Royal Northumberland Fusiliers and the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders. [15] In December 1940, 'W' Patrol was disbanded and its personnel used to bring 'R' and 'T' Patrols up to strength, [14] while 'G' Patrol took over their vehicles. [16] By June 1941 the LRDG was re-organised into two squadrons: the New Zealand and Rhodesian 'A' Squadron with 'S', 'T' and 'R' Patrols, and 'B' Squadron with 'G', 'H' and 'Y' Patrols. There was also a Headquarters Section along with signals, survey and light repair sections. A Heavy section, initially equipped with four 6-ton Marmon-Herrington trucks, [nb 2] was used to provide logistical support by transporting supplies to bases and setting up hidden replenishment points at pre-arranged locations. [2] In addition, there was an Air Section, using Waco ZGC-7 and YKC biplanes that transported key personnel, evacuated wounded and performed other liaison tasks. [18]

In August 1941 an artillery unit was formed to attack Italian forts more effectively. Initially it used a QF 4.5-inch howitzer carried on a 10-ton Mack NR 4 truck, with an accompanying light tank as an armoured observation post. However, these were handed over to the Free French at Kufra. The unit was then issued a 25 pounder portee. The LRDG successfully attacked and captured the fort at El Gtafia using the gun, but later the truck had to be abandoned and the experiment ended. [19]

Squadrons Edit

In October 1941 the LRDG was expanded to 10 patrols by the simple method of splitting the existing patrols into two-half patrols the New Zealanders formed A Squadron comprising 'R1', 'R2', 'T1', and 'T2' Patrols and the British and Rhodesians formed B Squadron comprising 'G1', 'G2', 'S1', 'S2', 'Y1', and 'Y2' Patrols. The 'H' Patrol had been disbanded in September 1941 after three months service. [20]

These two squadrons were joined in December 1941 by the Indian Long Range Squadron, which had been formed by volunteers from the 2nd Lancers, 11th Cavalry and the 18th Cavalry, all part of the 3rd Indian Motor Brigade. [21] The Indian Squadron was organized along ethnic and religious lines with the first two patrols originally known as 'J' (Jats) and 'R' (Rajput) Patrols. Their designations were changed to 'I1' and 'I2' to avoid confusion. [21] In October 1942 two further Indian patrols were formed: 'M' (Muslim) and 'S' (Sikh) Patrols, which became the 'I3' and 'I4' Patrols. [21] No. 1 Demolition Squadron, nicknamed "Popski's Private Army" and commanded by Major Vladimir 'Popski' Peniakoff, was briefly attached to the LRDG beginning in December 1942. [22]

The vehicles of each patrol adopted their own markings. The New Zealand 'R' Patrol used a green Hei-tiki with a red tongue painted on the right side of the bonnet of the vehicle, and on the left a Māori place name beginning with the letter 'R' (for example, 'Rotowaro'). [23] The 'T' Patrol vehicles had a black Kiwi over green 'grass' and a Māori name starting with 'Te' (for example, 'Te Anau') in the corresponding places. [23] The 'W' Patrol vehicles had a Māori name or word starting with 'W' painted on their vehicles. [23]

The British 'G' Patrol vehicles carried no distinctive markings, although some vehicles had the Guards insignia. They took over 'W' Patrol's vehicles when that unit was disbanded. [23] The 'Y' Patrol vehicles were slightly different 'Y1' half-patrol vehicles all had names of famous drinking establishments (such as 'Cock O' The North') and 'Y2' half-patrol had names from the "Three Musketeers" books (for example, 'Aramis') on the left sides of their vehicle bonnets. [23] The Headquarters Section used a sequence of letters arranged in a square (see photo of "Louise"). [24] The Rhodesian 'S' Patrol vehicles had names with a Rhodesian connection (such as 'Salisbury') painted on the left side of the vehicles' bonnets. [23] By 1943 the practice of naming replacement vehicles was dropped. [25]

Vehicles Edit

The LRDG vehicles were mainly two wheel drive, chosen because they were lighter and used less fuel than four wheel drive. They were stripped of all non-essentials, including doors, windscreens and roofs. They were fitted with a bigger radiator, a condenser system, built up leaf springs for the harsh terrain, wide, low pressure desert tyres, sand mats and channels, [nb 3] plus map containers and a sun compass devised by Bagnold. [13] Wireless trucks had special compartments built into the bodywork to house wireless equipment. [19] Initially the LRDG patrols were equipped with one Canadian Military Pattern (CMP) Ford 15 cwt F15 truck for the commander, while the rest of the patrol used up to 10 Chevrolet 30 cwt 158.5" wheelbase (WB) trucks . [17] [27] From March 1941 the 30 cwt Chevrolets were replaced by the CMP Ford 30 cwt F30, although in some ways this was a retrograde step as the four wheel drive and extra weight compared to the Chevrolets meant they used twice as much fuel, which reduced the range of a patrol. [19] [nb 4] From March 1942 the Fords were progressively replaced by 200 Canadian Chevrolet 1533 X2 30 cwts, which had been specially ordered for the LRDG. [17] [nb 5] From July 1942 Willys Jeeps began to be issued for the patrol commander and patrol sergeant. [13] [22]

Weapons Edit

The patrol vehicles were initially armed with 11 Lewis machine guns, four Boys anti-tank rifles and a Bofors 37 mm anti-tank gun distributed amongst their vehicles. [13] By December 1940, the vehicle armaments had been improved and 'T' Patrol, for example, had five .303 Vickers Medium Mk. I machine guns, five Lewis guns, four Boys anti-tank guns and the Bofors 37 mm. [30] Another Vickers gun used was the heavy Vickers .50 machine gun, which would be mounted at the rear of the vehicle. [31] All of the unit's vehicles were armed with at least one gun each vehicle was fitted with six to eight gun mountings, but normally only two or three of them would be in use. [32]

Supplementing their army-supplied weapons, the LRDG was equipped with surplus Royal Air Force (RAF) aircraft guns, which were acquired for their high rate of fire. The most widely used of these was the Vickers K machine gun, which was sometimes used mounted in pairs. [33] From mid-1941 the LRDG acquired .303 Browning Mk II's from RAF stocks, also mounted in pairs, with a combined rate of fire of 2,400 rounds per minute. [34] When new vehicles were issued in March 1942, several were converted to carry captured dual-purpose 20 mm Breda Model 35s, which replaced the Bofors 37 mm, and each half-patrol was equipped with one Breda "Gun truck". [35] In September 1942 the .50 Browning AN/M2 heavy machine gun began to replace both calibres of the Vickers machine guns and the Boys anti-tank rifle. [36]

The men of the LRDG carried the standard British Second World War small arms, the Short Magazine Lee–Enfield (SMLE) No.1 Mk III* being the primary rifle. [37] [nb 6] Other small arms carried were Thompson submachine guns and .38 Enfield, Webley & Scott or .45 Colt 1911A1 pistols. [39] Several types of hand grenade were used: the Mills bomb, No. 68 Anti-tank and No. 69's. Each truck was outfitted with a Lee–Enfield EY rifle attachment with a discharger cup able to fire the No. 36M Mills rifle grenade. [40] The LRDG also laid land mines, the most common being the Mk 2 mine. Other explosives used are the Lewes bombs, a custom made weapon using Nobel 808, were used to destroy aircraft and other targets, [41] and sticky bombs used to destroy enemy vehicles. [42]

Captured German and Italian small arms were utilised including the Beretta M 1934, Luger P08 and Walther P38 pistols. The German MP40 submachine gun and MG34, MG42 along with Italian Breda M37 and Breda M38 machine guns were all used. [43]

Communications Edit

In the LRP, most of the radio operators were New Zealanders, but the LRDG radio operators were all from the Royal Corps of Signals. These men were skilled in communications and were able to maintain and repair their equipment without any outside help. On only three occasions did a broken radio prevent a patrol communicating with its headquarters. [45] All LRDG patrols included one vehicle equipped with a Wireless Set No. 11 and a non-military Philips model 635 receiver. The No. 11 Set had been designed for use in tanks, and had transmitter and receiver circuits [46] the Royal Signals expected to use the No. 11 set to transmit and receive between 3 miles (4.8 km) and 20 miles (32 km) with the use of 6 feet (1.8 m) or 9 feet (2.7 m) antennas. [46] The LRDG used Morse code for all transmissions, and were able to transmit over great distances using either a dipole antenna system attached to a 6.3 feet (1.9 m) rod antenna mounted on the truck, which was adequate up to 500 miles (800 km), [45] or for greater distances, a Windom dipole system slung between two 17 feet (5.2 m) tall poles. [45] The disadvantage of using the Windom system was that it took time to erect and work out the correct antenna length, so it could only be used in a relatively safe area. [47] To power the No. 11 set extra batteries had to be carried by the radio vehicles. [45] The Philips receiver was used to monitor Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) time checks, which was vital for desert navigation. [26] [nb 8]

While on the move the lead vehicles of the patrol commanders and sergeants flew a small flag. Because the LRP was organised on divisional cavalry lines the leaders carried green flags for 'A' (HQ) Troop, black for 'B' Troop, yellow for 'C' Troop and red for 'D'. [48] When the LRDG was organised into 11 vehicle patrols this was simplified to a green flag displaying the patrol letter in white the later half-patrols used a plain green flag on occasion. When it became necessary to change course from an intended route, or in the event of enemy action, patrol movements were controlled by a simple semaphore flag system using blue and white signal flags, [nb 9] or hand signals, depending on how widely dispersed the trucks were. [48]

Navigation Edit

All trucks of the LRDG were equipped with the Bagnold sun compass and some trucks were also equipped with a P8 Tank Compass. [49] Each patrol had a navigator who always rode in the second truck in the formation. He was equipped with a theodolite and astronomical position tables with which to plot star sightings, and maps. [50] Watches were used and adjusted each evening using the GMT time check. [49] One major problem faced early on by the LRDG was a lack of accurate maps for Libya in particular. Patrols had to do their own surveys and make their own maps of each route they took. In July 1941 the Survey Section was formed to carry out this task. [51]

The LRDG area of operations between 1940–1943, known as the Western Desert, stretched about 930 miles (1,500 km) south from the Mediterranean to the Tibesti and the Jebel Uweinat mountains, and about 1,200 miles (1,900 km) from the Nile valley in the east to the mountains of Tunisia and Algeria in the west. [52] Paved roads were non-existent and only small tracks and pathways crossed the area. The daytime temperatures could reach 60 °C (140 °F) [ dubious – discuss ] and at night drop below freezing. The only water in the area is found in a number of small oases, which is also where the only vegetation grows. [52] While the vast majority of the 8th Army operated along the coast, the LRDG started operations inland south of the Great Sand Sea, were later based there and operated west and north, and were later based further west, well south of the coast.

The first LRP patrol began during the Italian invasion of Egypt. 'W' Patrol commanded by Captain Mitford set out on 15 September 1940 to carry out a reconnaissance of Kufra and Uweinat. Finding no trace of the Italians, they turned south and attacked fuel dumps, aircraft and an Italian convoy carrying supplies to Kufra. [53] 'T' Patrol, commanded by Captain Clayton, reconnoitred the main route between Kufra and Uweinat, then drove south to meet up with 'W' Patrol both units returned to base, having captured two Italian trucks and official mail. [54] The Italian response to these raids was to reduce their front line forces and increase the number of troops garrisoning the area from 2,900 men in September to 5,500 by November 1940. [55] On 27 December 1940, 'G' and 'T' Patrols left Cairo and crossed the desert to northwest of Kufra. On arrival they met with representatives from the Free French forces in Chad, and on 11 January carried out a joint raid on the Italian fort at Murzuk. [56] After two hours' fighting the fort remained in Italian hands, but the adjoining airfield had been destroyed. The units then withdrew southwards towards the Free French post at Zouar.

On 31 January they were intercepted by the Compagnia Autosahariana di Cufra, an Italian unit similar to the LRDG, in the Gebel Sherif valley. [57] The LRDG had one man killed and three men captured, including Major Clayton, and three trucks destroyed during the battle. The Italian losses were five killed and three wounded, and one truck was abandoned. [58] Four members of the LRDG escaped by walking 200 miles (320 km) to safety in ten days with no food and only a two gallon water can between them. [59] The patrol arrived back in Egypt on 9 February it had covered about 4,500 miles (7,200 km), experiencing the loss of six trucks, four by enemy action and two by mechanical breakdowns. One vehicle with a broken rear axle had been towed about 900 miles (1,400 km) before it could be repaired. Total casualties were three dead and three captured. Major Clayton was awarded the Distinguished Service Order. [60]

After Operation Compass ended with the Italians forced out of Cyrenaica it was decided to move the LRDG from Cairo to Kufra (SE Libya). At the same time the LRDG was expanded with the addition of 'Y' and 'S' Patrols. [61] When the German Afrika Korps under command of General Erwin Rommel counterattacked in April 1941, the LRDG was ordered to reinforce the Kufra area. 'R' Patrol were based at Taiserbo, 'S' Patrol at Zighen, and the headquarters LRDG, 'T' Patrol, and the Free French were at Kufra, under command of Bagnold. The detached 'G' and 'Y' Patrols were based at Siwa Oasis, under command of XIII Corps. [61]

The LRDG air link was created during the occupation of Kufra by Major Guy Lenox Prendergast. Appreciating the value of aircraft for reconnaissance, liaison, evacuating wounded and flights to GHQ Cairo, he had two Waco aircraft fitted with long range fuel tanks. Prendergast flew one himself and Sergeant R. F. T. Barker flew the other. When Bagnold was appointed to the General Staff Cairo in August 1941, Prendergast was given command of the LRDG. [61]

The LRDG now began a series of patrols behind the Axis lines. Near the end of July 'T' Patrol left for the desert to the south of the Gulf of Sirte. One 'T' Patrol truck managed to observe the main coastal road, along which Axis traffic was passing. They were followed two or three weeks later by 'S' Patrol, who carried out a similar reconnaissance between Jalo oasis and Agedabia. Both patrols returned safely to Kufra without being discovered. In August 1941 'R' Patrol relieved 'G' and 'Y' Patrols at Siwa and was joined by 'T' Patrol in October. [61]

Eighth Army command Edit

In November 1941 the LRDG, now under command of the newly formed Eighth Army, moved from Kufra to Siwa (central Libya). The patrols were given the task of watching the desert tracks south of Jebel Akhdar and report any signs of reinforcements and withdrawals. 'R1' Patrol was to pick up Captain David Stirling and 30 men who had parachuted behind the lines to raid airfields to the west of Tobruk. Only 21 men arrived at the rendezvous and were returned to the British lines, later becoming the nucleus of the Special Air Service (SAS). One of the other roles assigned to the LRDG was to transport SAS units behind enemy lines this continued until the SAS were issued with their own transport in 1942. [62] In early November 'T2' Patrol took four British officers to the Gebel and was to return and collect them three weeks later. The officers were the advance land party of Operation Flipper, which had planned to kill General Rommel. [62]

On 24 November, in support of Operation Crusader, the LRDG were ordered to attack Axis rear areas. Already on patrol, 'Y1' and 'Y2' Patrols attacked targets in the Mechili, Derna and Gazala area. 'Y1' damaged fifteen vehicles in a transport park and 'Y2' captured a small fort and about 20 Italians. 'S2' and 'R2' Patrols attacked targets in the Benghazi, Barce and Marawa area, where they ambushed nine vehicles. 'G1' and 'G2' Patrols were assigned the main road near Agedabia where 'G1' made two attacks on road traffic and shot up a few vehicles. After the Axis forces withdrew from Cyrenaica the LRDG moved to a base at Jalo oasis, about 140 miles (230 km) to the south-south-east of Ajdabiya. [62]

The last operations of 1941 were in December, when the LRDG twice ferried the SAS to and from raids on Axis airfields, attacking the airfields at Sirte (twice), El Agheila, Ajdabiya, Nofaliya and Tamit, and destroying 151 aircraft and 30 vehicles. [63] During the second raid at Sirte, the SAS devised a new method of attacking parked aircraft. They drove the LRDG trucks between the rows of aircraft, which were then engaged by machine guns and hand grenades. Prior to this the procedure had been to quietly infiltrate an airfield and place Lewes bombs on aircraft and vehicles, leaving before the bombs exploded, but this attack was so successful that it became the preferred method for attacking airfields. [63]

Road watch Edit

When the LRDG was based at Siwa, they took part in what has since become known as the 'Road Watch' along the Via Balbia (the Tripoli to Benghazi road). [64] Three patrols were engaged on road watch duties at any one time, with one watching the road for a week to 10 days, another would be en route to relieve them and the third was returning to Siwa after having been relieved. [65] The site of the road watch was about 5 miles (8.0 km) from the Marble Arch monument. The road watch patrol would park about 2 miles away from the road and the trucks would be camouflaged using camouflage nets, any local foliage and sand. Before dawn each day two men would move into a well camouflaged position about 350 yards (320 m) from the road. By day they would record the details of all vehicles and troop movements, and at night they would move to about 30 yards (27 m) from the road and guess what type of vehicles were passing by their sound and outline. At daylight they were relieved by another pair of men who took over that day's road watch. [64]

If tanks or a large number of troops were seen passing, they would radio the LRDG headquarters at Siwa immediately so that by the time the enemy reached the front line, GHQ at Cairo would know they were coming. Once a patrol was relieved they would transmit details of all they had seen back to Siwa. [66] The LRDG did not lose any men or vehicles when on the road watch, but they did have some close encounters. On 21 March 'R1' Patrol was surrounded by a convoy of 27 vehicles and about 200 men who stopped for the night between the watchers and their vehicles. [65] While the road watch was ongoing, other patrols would be attacking targets along other stretches of the Tripoli to Benghazi road, by planting mines or attacking vehicles with machine gun fire. [67] The road was kept under constant observation around the clock from 2 March to 21 July 1942. [64]

After the Battle of Gazala and the fall of Tobruk, the LRDG were forced to withdraw from Siwa on 28 June. 'A' Squadron withdrew to Cairo to resupply and then moved back to Kufra, while 'B' Squadron moved to Faiyum. [68]

Barce Edit

With the Eighth Army now holding the El Alamein line, plans were submitted to attack the Axis supply lines and the ports of Benghazi and Tobruk. [69] In September 1942, British Commandos would attack Tobruk by land and sea (Operation Agreement). The SAS would attack Benghazi (Operation Bigamy) and the Sudan Defence Force would capture Jalo oasis (Operation Nicety). [69] The LRDG would be used to guide the attacking forces to their targets and at the same time, a LRDG force would attack Barce (Operation Caravan). The Barce force consisted of 17 vehicles and 47 men of 'G1' and 'T1' Patrols, which had to travel 1,155 miles (1,859 km) to reach their target. On arrival 'T1' Patrol attacked the airfield and 'G1' the Barce barracks. The attack on the airfield destroyed 35 aircraft according to an Italian prisoner of war. [70] Official Italian figures quote 16 aircraft destroyed and seven damaged. [71]

On 30 September 1942, the LRDG ceased to be under command of the Eighth Army and came under direct command of GHQ Middle East. [72] The final LRDG operation in North Africa was in Tunisia during the Mareth Offensive when they guided the 2nd New Zealand Division around the Mareth Line in March 1943. [73]

Post 1943 operations Edit

In May 1943 the LRDG was sent to Lebanon to retrain in mountain warfare. [74] However, following the Italian armistice in 1943, they were sent to Leros, one of the Dodecanese islands, to serve as normal infantry. They later took part in the Battle of Leros, where the commanding officer John Richard Easonsmith was killed and replaced by David Lloyd Owen. [75] After the battle the last New Zealanders, two officers and approximately 46 men, were withdrawn from the LRDG and returned to their division. [76]

In December 1943, the LRDG re-organised into two squadrons of eight patrols. Each patrol contained one officer and 10 other ranks. Major Moir Stormonth Darling was given command of the British Squadron and Major Kenneth Henry Lazarus the Rhodesian Squadron. Patrols were then parachuted north of Rome to obtain information about German troop movements, and also carried out raids on the Dalmatian Islands and Corfu. [75] [77]

In August 1944, British Squadron patrols were parachuted into Yugoslavia. One patrol destroyed two 40 feet (12 m) spans of a large railway bridge, which caused widespread disruption to the movement of German troops and supplies. The commanding officer Lieutenant-Colonel Owen and a team of 36 men were parachuted into Albania in September 1944. Their mission was to follow the German retreat and assist Albanian resistance groups in attacking them. [78] In October 1944, two British Squadron patrols were parachuted into the Florina area of Greece. Here they mined a road used by the retreating Germans, destroying three vehicles and blocking the road. Firing on the stranded convoy from an adjacent hillside, they directed RAF aircraft in to destroy the rest of the convoy. [77]

After the end of the war in Europe, the leaders of the LRDG made a request to the War Office for the unit to be transferred to the Far East to conduct operations against the Japanese Empire. The request was declined and the LRDG was disbanded in August 1945. [79] [80]

The Long Range Desert Group was disbanded at the end of the Second World War. The only comparable British Army units today are the Mobility troops of the Special Air Service. Each of the regular army Special Air Service squadrons has a Mobility troop. Like the LRDG, they are specialists in using vehicles, trained in an advanced level of motor mechanics to fix any problem with their vehicles, and are experts in desert warfare. [81] [82]

The Long Range Desert Group is one of the Second World War units represented by the Special Air Service Association. Other wartime units represented include all the SAS regiments, the Special Raiding Squadron, the Special Boat Service (Wartime), the Phantom Signal Squadron, the Raiding Support Regiment and the Greek Sacred Squadron. [83]

The New Zealand Army erected a permanent memorial to the LRDG at the New Zealand Special Air Service barracks, in the Papakura Military Camp. On 7 August 2009, two honour boards containing details of every New Zealand soldier who served in the LRDG were unveiled. [84]

One of the LRDG's Chevrolet WB trucks is displayed in the Imperial War Museum in London. It was presented to the museum by the LRDG Association, after being recovered from the Libyan desert in 1983 by David Lloyd Owen, by then a retired Major General and chairman of the Association. [85] It is preserved in the condition in which it was discovered, rusted but largely intact.


Dozens of Messerschmitt Bf 109 fighters, including the A, B, C, D, and E variants first saw active service in the Condor Legion against Soviet-supplied aircraft in mid 1937 as a testing ground for the new German fixed-wing fighter plane. The Bf 109 quickly replaced the Heinkel He 51 biplane fighter which suffered many losses during the first 12 months of the conflict. Of the Luftwaffe's Jagdgruppen, 136 Bf 109s were sent to Spain, and 47 of these, including Bf 109Bs, Ds and Es remained behind in service with the Spanish Air Force after the conclusion of the war in 1939. The Republican fighters were no match for the Bf 109 [ citation needed ] , equipped mostly with Soviet built Polikarpov I-15 and Polikarpov I-16s the Republican forces suffered heavy losses to Nationalist and Condor Legion fighters [ citation needed ] . As many as 20 Bf 109s were lost in Spain to enemy action to both aerial combat and ground fire.

The Bf 109 was credited with more aerial kills than any other aircraft. One hundred and five (possibly 109) Bf 109 pilots were credited with the destruction of 100 or more enemy aircraft. Thirteen of these men scored more than 200 kills, while two scored more than 300. Altogether this group were credited with nearly 15,000 kills between them. [1] Among many of the combatants, ace status was granted to a pilot who scored five or more kills. Applying this to Luftwaffe fighter pilots and their records shows more than 2,500 German pilots were aces. [2] However, the Germans did not use this benchmark instead they awarded the title of Experte to a fighter pilot who not only demonstrated high skill in combat but also exemplified the best in personal character. [3] The majority of Bf 109 pilots scored their kills against the Soviets, however five pilots did record over 100 claims against the Western Allies. Luftwaffe records show that during Operation Barbarossa, German pilots claimed 7,355 kills on the Bf 109, between the seven Jagdgeschwader (JG 3, JG 27, JG 51, JG 53, JG 54, JG 77, and LG 2) for exactly 350 losses in aerial combat, a ratio of just over 21:1, and the highest achieved by the Germans on the Eastern Front. [4] [5] During the latter part of the war, the Bf 109 was the selected aircraft that was used in the Rammkommando ELBE because of its lighter weight compared to the Fw 190. [6]

Between January and October 1942, a further 18 German pilots joined the select group that had now reached 100 kills over the Eastern Front. During this period Bf 109 pilots claimed 12,000 Soviet aircraft destroyed. [7] [8]

The Bf 109 in the Battle of Britain Edit

Arguably the most well known of all Bf 109 operations was the contest of air superiority between the Royal Air Force and the Luftwaffe during the Battle of Britain in the summer of 1940. The E-1 and E-4 variants bore the brunt of the battle. On 31 August 1940, fighter units (excluding JG 77) reported 375 E-1s, 125 E-3s, 339 E-4s and 32 E-7s on strength, indicating that most of the E-3s had been already converted to E-4 standard. [9] By July, one Gruppe (Wing) of JG 26 was equipped with the Bf 109 E-4/N model of improved performance, powered by the new DB 601N engine using 100 octane aviation fuel. [10]

The fuel-injected DB 601 proved most useful against the British Supermarine Spitfire and Hawker Hurricane, as the British fighters used gravity-fed carburetted engines, which would cut out under negative g-forces whereas the DB 601 did not. The Bf 109s thus had the initial advantage in dives, either during attack or to escape, in that it could 'bunt' directly into a dive with no loss of power. Another difference was the choice of fighter armament: the RAF's Hurricanes and Spitfires in the main used eight 0.303 in (7.7 mm) machine guns. Most Bf 109E variants (E-3, E-4, E-7) carried two 7.92 mm (.312 in) MG 17s and two 20 mm MG FF cannon. The latter fired mixed types of ammunition, including Minengeschoß type high-capacity explosive shells which were highly destructive, but had different ballistic properties to the MG 17s. The MG FFs had a relatively small ammunition supply compared to the machine guns, each being fed by a 60-round capacity drum magazine. Making up about one-third of the Bf 109Es in the Battle, the E-1s, carried an all-machine gun armament of four 7.92 mm (.312 in) MG 17 machine guns, but were provided with a total of 4,000 rounds.

British pilots who tested a captured Bf 109 E-3 liked the engine and throttle response, the docile and responsive handling and stall characteristics at low speeds, but criticised the high-speed handling characteristics (in part due to the automatic wing slats opening), poorer turning circle (850 ft as opposed to 680 ft for the Spitfire), and greater control forces required at speed (in part because of rudder pedal position and a lack of trim tabs). [11] In August 1940, comparative trials were held at the Erprobungsstelle Rechlin central Luftwaffe air test facility, with the leading Luftwaffe ace Werner Mölders being one of the participants. The tests concluded that the Bf 109 had superior level and climb speed to the Spitfire and Hurricane at all altitudes, but also noted the significantly smaller turning circle of the British fighters (more than one British pilots combat reports bear this out, having used the tighter turning circle of their aircraft to get into firing position, or conversely used it to get out of the way of a 109). It was advised not to engage in turning dogfights unless the performance advantage of the Bf 109 could be used to full effect. The roll rate of the Bf 109 was deemed superior, as was its stability on target approach. Mölders himself called the Spitfire "miserable as a fighting aircraft", due to its two-pitch propeller and the inability of its carburettor to handle negative g-forces. His complaint regarding the propeller was that with one setting selected the pilot was at risk of over-revving and stressing the engine, but conversely, selecting the other setting meant the aircraft could not run at its best (a situation roughly analogous to a car having too much of a gap between transmission ratios) In the political climate of the times there was often a considerable amount of propaganda written into such reports by both sides [12] or the information quickly become outdated for example, as a result of a crash programme, all Spitfires and Hurricanes were retrofitted with either Rotol or Hamilton Standard constant-speed propellers by 16 August 1940. [13]

During the Battle of Britain, the Bf 109's chief disadvantage was its short range: like most of the 1930s monoplane interceptors, it was designed to engage enemy bombers over friendly territory, and the range and endurance necessary for escorting long-ranged bombers over enemy territory was not required. The Bf 109E escorts used during the Battle had a limited fuel capacity resulting in only a 660 km (410 mile) maximum range solely on internal fuel, [14] and when they arrived over a British target, had only 10 minutes of flying time before turning for home, leaving the bombers undefended by fighter escorts. Its eventual stablemate, the Focke-Wulf Fw 190A, was only flying in prototype form in the summer of 1940 the first 28 Fw 190s were not delivered until November 1940. The Fw 190A-1 had a maximum range of 940 km (584 miles) on internal fuel, 40% greater than the Bf 109E. [15] The Messerschmitt Bf 109E-7 corrected this deficiency by adding a ventral center-line ordnance rack to take either an SC 250 bomb or a standard 300 litre Luftwaffe drop tank to double the range to 1,325 km (820 mi). The ordnance rack was not retrofitted to earlier Bf 109Es until October 1940. The Spitfire and Hurricane, designed with similar operational requirements in mind, had a tactical advantage as they were operating virtually over their home airfields as interceptors, and thus being able to remain longer in the combat area.

From November 1942 to April 1943, the Regia Aeronautica received only 160 new bombers and 758 new fighters from their own production lines, while losing about 1,600 aircraft in combat, for accidents and other causes. For this reason, the Italian Air Force decided to use German aircraft. General Kesselring accepted a first batch of about 30 Bf 109s that were assigned to 150° and 3° Gruppo. The first unit under command of Maggiore Antonio Vizzotto was ready to operate in April moving to Caltagirone airfield, then on Sciacca's, in Sicily. Just before the Allies landed in Sicily, the 150° Gruppo (363ª, 364ª, 365ª Squadriglia) had 25 Bf 109s operative, while 17 other Bf 109s were with 3° Gruppo (153ª, 154ª, 155ª Squadriglia) on Comiso airfield, in Sicily. Most of them were destroyed by Allied bombers. On 12 July, the fourth day of combat, the two Gruppos had lost nearly all the aircraft. By mid-July, the 150° Gruppo was deployed to Ciampino airfield, just outside Rome with the last three remaining Bf 109s arriving from Sicily. Meanwhile, 23° Gruppo (70ª, 74ª, 75ª Squadriglia) of 3° Stormo, on Cerveteri airfield, in Latium, received 11 Bf 109Gs. By 8 September, when Italy signed the Armistice of Cassibile, only four Bf 109s remained serviceable, based on Ciampino airstrip, with 150 Gruppo. [16]

The Aeronautica Nazionale Repubblicana (ANR) was the airforce deployed by the Repubblica Sociale Italiana (RSI). Although the ANR was organised by the RSI, much of its operational control came from the Luftwaffe. At first, the ANR fighter units (I° Gruppo Caccia and II° Gruppo Caccia [18] ) used Macchi C.205s and Fiat G.55 Centauros respectively. Notwithstanding the G.55s gave a good account of themselves against Allied fighters like the Spitfire and Mustang [19] the Luftwaffe ' s Jagdfliegerführer (Fighter Controller or Jafü), considering that many of the unit's pilots had experience flying the Bf 109Gs of the Regia Aeronautica over Sicily, directed that the Fiat G.55s of II° Gruppo Caccia would be replaced by Bf 109Gs. Ex-JG 4 Bf 109 G-6 aircraft started arriving at Cascina Vaga on 29 May, and two G-12 trainers were delivered two weeks later. By 22 June, the unit was ready for its first operations. [20]

The unit's first operation with the Bf 109 occurred on 22 June 1944 eleven Bf 109s sortied from the airfield, although nothing was achieved.

I°Gr.C continued to use a combination of Macchi 205s and Fiat G.55s although, for various reasons, [21] the unit rarely operated from August 1944 through to December, when the first Bf 109 G-12 trainer arrived. Still in December, the remaining 17 pilots of I° Gruppo were moved to Rangsdorf, in Berlin, to start a training course on Me 163 rocket fighter. [22] In November 1944, I°Gr.C was transferred to the Luftwaffe flying school at Holzkirchen in Germany to convert to the Messerschmitts. [22] At the beginning of February, 57 of I° Gruppo ' s pilots were ready for operations with the Me 109 51 (52, according to other sources [22] ) G-6s, G-10s and K-4s, most of which came directly from Germany, were available at the end of the month. The fighters were placed on the heath between Lonate Pozzolo and Malpensa airfields, and carefully camouflaged to protect them from Allied air raids. The first combat operation occurred on 14 March 1945. I° Gruppo attempted to intercept B-25 Mitchells of the 321st Bomb Group near Lake Garda but, in turn, were bounced by P-47 Thunderbolts of the 350th Fighter Group. 1° Gruppo had three pilots dead, one wounded, three aircraft lost and six damaged in return one P-47 was claimed by the Commander Adriano Visconti.

The other ANR fighter unit, II° Gruppo, that had given at the end of May 1944 its G.55s to I° Gruppo, had been re-equipped with 46 ex I./JG 53 and II./JG 77 Bf 109 G-6. [23] On 22 June 1944, it took off on its first operational flight with its Messerschmitts and three days later it shot down two P-47s from the Gaullist French G.C.II/3. At this stage, Luftwaffe ordered ANR pilots to operate outside Italian borders. For instance, on 25 July, 18 Bf 109Gs from II° Gruppo were ordered to move to Tulln, in Austria. Here they were subordinated to JG 53. They operated together with German pilots against an Allied bomber raid. During this combined mission eight B-24 Liberators were shot down. [24]

On 2 April 1945, II° Gruppo 29 Bf 109s, from Aviano and Osoppo bases, intercepted a large formation of B-25s over Ghedi, Brescia, escorted by P-47Ds of 347 Fighter Squadron. In the air battle that ensued, ANR pilots suffered a heavy defeat: 14 Bf 109s were shot down and six Italian pilots killed, without scoring a single air victory. [25] On 10 April, three Bf 109s, flown by Sottotenente (Flying Officer) Umberto Gallori, Maresciallo (Warrant Officer) Mario Veronesi and Maresciallo Dino Forlani, intercepted P-47s from 57° Fighter Squadron over Milan and Como. Forlani claimed a P-47 damaged, but the other two Italian fighters were hit and lightly damaged. On 19 April, 1° Gruppo "Asso di bastoni" had its last combat, last claim and its last loss. [26]

In October 1942, the Luftwaffe agreed to partially re-arm Royal Hungarian Air Force fighter units with the Bf 109. Subordinated to the German Jagdgeschwader 52 on the Eastern Front, the first Hungarian fighter unit to convert to the Bf 109 F-4 was the RHAF's 1./1. vadászszázad (fighter squadron). After brief training on the type, zászlós (ensign) Lukács Ottó flew the first combat sorties on 15 October 1942. The unit was mainly engaged in fighter-bomber and strafing attacks until 16 December 1942, when főhadnagy (Lieutenant) György Bánlaky and hadnagy (Second Lieutenant) Imre Pánczél shot down four Ilyushin Il-2s the first victims of the RHAF's 109s. Several other fighter units converted to the 109F and later G models during the course of 1943 and were heavily engaged in combat on the Eastern Front. [27]

By late 1943 the RHAF realized the locally produced but obsolete Reggiane Re.2000 Héja fighters were not up to the task, and began to equip fighter squadrons in the Home Air Defense with Bf 109s. During April and May 1944, the new Bf 109Gs were concentrated into the 101. Honi Légvédelmi Vadászrepülő Osztály (101st Home Air Defence Fighter Wing). The Hungarian Messerschmitt factory at Győr produced many of these under licence. The unit, commanded by the experienced Eastern Front veteran őrnagy (major) Heppes Aladár, was also known as the Red Pumas after its insignia. [28] During 'The American Season', between May and August 1944, the 101. had claimed 15 P-51s, 33 P-38s and 56 four-engine bombers. [29] But Hungarian losses were high too: 18 fighter pilots lost their lives. [30] The heaviest losses occurred on 7 August 1944, when 18 Bf 109s from 101 Fighter Group, escorting Luftwaffe Bf 109 G-6s, armed with additional cannons in underwing gondolas, took off to intercept 357 four-engined American bombers, escorted by 117 fighters. The Messerschmitts were intercepted by the escorting P-51 Mustangs that shot down eight Hungarians and at least nine Germans Bf 109s, losing just two of their number. Among the killed "Pumas" was Lt László Molnár Lukács, the top scoring Hungarian pilot to date, with 25 kills (including seven American aircraft). [31] By November 1944 the 101. was re-organized into a fighter regiment, and was re-equipped with the latest Messerschmitt Bf 109 G-10 and G-14 types. At the end of December the pilots received new Bf 109s at Wiener-Neustadt and were subsequently transferred to the Kenyeri airfield. Early in February 101 Fighter Wing received 26 brand new Bf 109 G-10/U4s with the instructions that their engines had to be changed after 30–40 operating hours. [32] However, combat missions against the 15th USAAF came to an end, and the 101st's main adversary in the air became the Red Air Force. [33] The Hungarian pilots were numerically far inferior to the Soviets but they nevertheless attacked. On 9 March eight Bf 109Gs from 101/3 fighter squadron intercepted a formation of 25 Soviet Douglas Boston bombers escorted by 16 Yak-9s and shot down three. Two weeks later eight "Red Pumas" attacked 26 Soviet aircraft south of Lake Balaton and shot down five without a single loss. [34]

At the end of March 1945, the MKHL had to leave Hungary. The "Red Pumas" moved first to Petersdorf, then to Wiener-Neustadt and Tulln, then to Raffelding, in Austria. From there the Hungarian fighters still carried out many reconnaissance flights and attacks on ground targets. Their losses were dramatically high: in two days, "Red Pumas" lost ten fighters and four pilots. On 17 April 1945, Sen Lt Kiss achieved the last MKHL aerial victory shooting down a Soviet Yakovlev Yak-9. [35] The unit set its last remaining Bf 109s on fire on 4 May 1945 at Raffelding airbase to prevent their falling into the hands of advancing U.S. troops. [36] One example of a Hungarian Bf 109, a G-10/U4 Werknummer 611 943 survives to this day at the Planes of Fame Museum.

The Finnish Air Force received its first Bf 109s in 1943. A total of 162 aircraft of this type were to be purchased and the first aircraft landed in Finland on 13 March 1943. In total, 159 aircraft were taken into service, as two G-6s and one G-8 were destroyed en route to Finland. Forty-eight of these were G-2s, 109 were G-6s and two were G-8s. The Bf 109 is still the aircraft type that has served in the largest numbers in the Finnish Air Force. The aircraft was nicknamed Mersu in popular speech (the same as the nickname for Mercedes-Benz cars, whose parent company Daimler-Benz produced the Bf 109 engine) and carried the designation MT and a 3-digit identification number. With the arrival of the 109s, the Finns once again could fight on a more even basis, as they could match the latest Soviet fighters. The last of the purchased aircraft arrived in Finland on 20 August 1944, just before the armistice with the Soviet Union. [ citation needed ]

During the Continuation War, Bf 109s were in service with fighter squadrons 24, 28, 30 and 34:

Finnish Bf 109G tally: [37]
HLeLv 24 HLeLv 28 HLeLv 30 HLeLv 34
Victories 304 15 3 345
Losses in combat 14 0 2 18

The Finns scored 667 confirmed victories with the type, losing 34 Bf 109s to enemy fighters or anti-aircraft fire. A further 16 were lost in accidents and eight aircraft were destroyed on the ground. Twenty-three pilots were killed. [37]

One hundred and two Bf 109s survived the war, and the aircraft remained the main fighter of the Finnish Air Force for almost a decade after the end of World War II. Despite the aircraft's expected short lifespan (it was built as a wartime aircraft and was calculated to last about 100–200 flight hours), it continued in service until spring 1954 when the FAF entered the Jet Age. The last flight was on 13 March 1954 by Major Erkki Heinilä in aircraft MT-507.

Museum aircraft in Finland

Several Bf 109s are preserved in Finland. MT-452 is on display at the airfield in Utti, [38] and the Central Finland Aviation Museum displays MT-507, which was the last flying Bf 109 of the FAF. [39] The Finnish airplane constructor Valtion Lentokonetehdas also manufactured a fighter, called VL Pyörremyrsky, whose appearance greatly resembled the Bf 109 but which also features some significant improvements, such as significantly easier handling, different wing construction, and re-designed landing gear. One single aircraft was produced before the end of the war it is today displayed at the Central Finland Aviation Museum. Further, the doctoral thesis by the Finnish aircraft expert Hannu Valtonen is called "Tavallisesta kuriositeetiksi – Kahden Keski-Suomen Ilmailumuseon Messerschmitt Bf 109 -lentokoneen museoarvo" (From regular to a curiosity – The museal value of two Messerschmitt Bf 109s at the Central Finland Aviation Museum).

Switzerland took delivery of the first of its 115 Bf 109s in 1938 when ten Bf 109Ds were delivered. After this, 80 109 E-3s were purchased which arrived from April 1939 until just before the German invasion of France in summer 1940. During the war, a further four 109s (two Fs and two Gs) were acquired by the Swiss Air Force through internment. The 109Es were supplemented by eight aircraft licence manufactured from spare parts by Doflug at Altenrhein, delivered in 1944.

In April 1944, 12 further G-6s were acquired in exchange for the destruction of a highly secret Messerschmitt Bf 110G night fighter which made an emergency landing in Switzerland. The new 109Gs suffered from numerous manufacturing defects and after problematic service were withdrawn from use by May 1948. The 109Es continued in service until December 1949. [40]

With the start of the Battle of France, Swiss fighters began intercepting and occasionally fighting German aircraft intruding Swiss airspace. On 10 May 1940, several Swiss Bf 109s engaged a German Dornier Do 17 near the border at Bütschwil in the ensuing exchange of fire, the Dornier was hit and eventually forced to land near Altenrhein.

On 1 June, the Flugwaffe dispatched 12 Bf 109 E-1s to engage 36 unescorted German Heinkel He 111s of Kampfgeschwader 53 that were crossing Swiss airspace to attack the Lyon – Marseilles railway system. The Swiss Air force sustained its first casualty in the engagement when Sub Lieutenant Rudolf Rickenbacher was killed when the fuel tank of his Bf 109 exploded after being hit by the Heinkel's return fire. However, the Swiss "Emils" shot down six He 111s. [41]

On 8 June, a C-35 observation aircraft, an antiquated biplane, was attacked over the Jura Mountains by two German Bf 110s the pilot and observer were killed. Later on the same day, Swiss Captain Lindecker led about 15 Swiss Emils to intercept a formation of German He 111s escorted by II./Zerstörergeschwader 1 ' s Bf 110s. The engagement resulted in five Bf 110s being shot down (including the Staffelkapitän Gerhard Kadow) for the loss of one Swiss Bf 109. [41]

In the latter stages of the war, Swiss Messerschmitts were painted with red and white striped "neutrality markings" around the fuselage and main wings to avoid confusion with German 109s.

During the late 1930s, Yugoslavia embarked in an ambitious modernization program of its air force. So, from 1939 to 1941, Vazduhoplovstvo Vojske Kraljevine Yugoslavije (VVKJ – Royal Yugoslav Air Force) [42] received 83 Bf 109 E-3s with the first two aircraft delivered in beginning of 1939. However, the aircraft were grounded most of the time due to a lack of spare parts, which was a German war tactic. The Yugoslav pilots were not happy with the Bf 109 after several landing accidents due to the Messerschmitt's narrow landing gear and constant mechanical failures. On 6 April 1941, first day of the Axis invasion of Yugoslavia, VVKJ had in service 54 Messerschmitt Bf 109E-3as. [43] The defense of Belgrade (6 LP 31 and 32nd group) saw the heaviest fighting with both Yugoslav and German Bf 109s going head to head. During the first day of the battle, Yugoslav pilots managed to destroy several German planes. By the end of the 12-day campaign almost all Bf 109s had been destroyed, either in combat, or by their crews to prevent capture. Some of the surviving aircraft were later captured and sold to Romania. [44]

After the Kingdom of Yugoslavia was defeated and occupied by the Axis powers, the new Independent State of Croatia (Nezavisna Država Hrvatska, NDH) was created. On 27 June, the Croatian Legion (Hrvatska Legija) was formed on order of Ante Pavelić, to support German forces on the Eastern Front. The air component, Hrvatska Zrakoplovna Legija (HZL, Croatian Air Force Legion), was established on 12 of July. Named 4. Mjesovita zrakoplovna pukovnija (Mixed Air Force Regiment) [45] it comprised two units: a bomber and a fighter group. The latter, Zrakoplovna lovacka skupina (ZLS), with 202 men, was sent to Germany and trained on Bf 109s. [46] 10. Zrakoplovno lovacko jato (ZLJ, air force fighter squadron), equipped with 10 Bf 109F and one Bf 109E, was the first operative Croatian unit. [46] Its first base was Poltava, in Ukraine, where it was subordinated to III./JG 52. There, 10. ZLS was renamed 15(Kroatische)./JG 52. The first air victories of Croatian aviation came on 2 November 1942. That day, Hauptmann Vladimir Ferencina (future 10 kills ace) and Leutnant Baumgarten claimed a Polikarpov I-16 Rata each, near Rostov. [47] By the end of the war, 17 Croatian pilots had achieved the status of ace, flying the Bf 109, the top scoring being Mato Dukovac, with 44 kills. [48] At the end of the conflict, 17 Luftwaffe and Croatian Air Force Bf 109s were found by Yugoslav Partisans on Yugoslav territory. [49] These were stored until 1949 while more were acquired from Bulgaria. The new SFR Yugoslav Air Force used a mix of G-2, G-6, G-10 and G-12 aircraft until mid-1952 by the 172nd Fighter Regiment.

The Royal Romanian Air Force (Forţele Aeriene Regale ale României, FARR) operated Bf 109Es and Gs against the Soviet Union, at first, and – after the “change of fronts” that followed the coup d'état led by King Michael I of Romania in August 1944 – against the Germans. The first batch delivered by Messerschmitt to Romanians was of 50 Bf 109E-3/E-4 that equipped Escadrila 56, 57 and 58. [50] In June 1942, the three Escadrila of Grupul 7 Vanatoare, led by Cdr. Capt. C. Grigore, had still 12 Bf 109Es each. [51] Between 28 March and 1 July 1943, Grupul 7, led by Lt Col Radu Gheorghe, operated with units of Luftwaffe JG 3 Udet, on South-Eastern Ukraine. In this period of "free hunting", the Romanians – among them Escadrila 57's commander, Capt Alexandru Şerbănescu – proved very successful. In just two days, the pilots of Grupul 7 shot down 23 Soviet aircraft. [52] After King Michael's Coup on 23 August 1944 that removed the government of Ion Antonescu, which had aligned Romania with Nazi Germany, the Romanian pilots had to fight the Luftwaffe and the Hungarians with their Messerschmitts even if reluctantly and without any enthusiasm. [53]

Already on the evening of 22 June 1941, day of German invasion of USSR, the Spanish Foreign Minister offered the German Ambassador in Madrid volunteers to fight “against Bolshevism”. Spanish volunteers formed the so-called Blue Division, 250 I.D. (Infantry Division) of the Wehrmacht and the Escuadrilla Azul, a fighter squadron, the first of five units, that flew mostly Bf 109s. The 1.ª Escuadrilla de Caza left the Spanish capital already on 25 June 1941, with 17 pilots. These airmen, during the Spanish Civil War, had shot down a total of 179 Republican aircraft. Their leader was Comandante Ángel Salas Larrazábal, a 17 kills ace. After a training in Germany, on 5 September 1941, the Spaniards were equipped with new Bf 109E-7s and sent on the Soviet front. [54] On 26 September the 1.ª Escuadrilla de Caza with its 12 Messerschmitts flew to Minsk, then to its operational base of Moznha, where formed a squadron of Jagdgeschwader 27, the 15.(Span.)/JG 27. Few days later, Comandante Larrazábal scored the first two kills of the Escuadrilla Azul, shooting down one I-16 Rata and a Petlyakov Pe-2 reconnaissance bomber and Wolfram Freiherr von Richthofen, then Commanding General of VIII. Fliegerkorps, awarded him with the Iron Cross 2nd class, on 5 October. [55] The 1.ª Escuadrilla was based in Vitebsk when, on 6 January 1942, received the order to retreat to Spain. In 460 sorties, Spaniards had claimed 10 aircraft destroyed in the air plus four on the ground, but had lost five pilots. The 2.ª Escuadrilla Azul was formed by Comandante Julio Salvador y Díaz-Benjumea, a 24 kills ace in Spanish Civil War. Diaz-Benjumea would be appointed Minister of Aviation by Franco in 1969. [56] After a training in Germany, the new Escuadrilla Azul was equipped with Bf109F-4 and listed as 15.(span.)JG 51. The Spaniards were deployed to Orel. The 2.ª Escuadrilla flew 403 operational sorties and was credited with 13 kills. It suffered just two losses. On 30 November 1942, the 3.ª Escuadrilla arrived to Orel for the official relief of the 2nd Squadron, still in Orel. The following day, the 3.ª Escuadrilla suffered its first loss, when Capitan Andrés Alvarez-Arenas was shot down and captured by Soviets. [57] The Spaniards scored just two kills up to 27 January 1943 when they were credited with seven kills. [58] The Spanish pilots fought up to Spring 1944 against Soviet Union. They flew more than 3,000 operational sorties, they achieved 159 kills and suffered a loss rate or 30% (including wounded). [59]

Five Bf 109 E-7s were acquired by the Japanese in 1941, without armament, for evaluation. While in Japan they received the standard Japanese hinomarus and yellow wing leading edges, as well as white numerals on the rudder. A red band outlined in white was painted around the rear fuselage.

They were used in comparison trials by the Japanese Army Air Force with the Nakajima Ki-43 Hayabusa, Nakajima Ki-44 Shoki and the Kawasaki Ki-61 Hien. As Japanese were interested in the DB 601 engine and license-built it for their Kawasaki Ki-61 Hien fighter, they had little interest in the Bf 109 itself.

The Allies, expecting to encounter Japanese Bf 109s in combat, assigned a code name of “Mike” to the Messerschmitts. None were flown in combat by the Japanese.

"Times Square on a rainy day." New York, March 1943.

I would have loved to have walked around in an NYC that was this open, as much as I like the skyscrapers.

On a side note, you see the bank over there?

Why were old banks always built on the corner of a street?

Go to Brooklyn. There's a saying for some that "Brooklyn is what Manhattan used to be", and there's some serious truth to that. In the past few decades, Manhattan has become more of an affluent and more average town in some ways. A lot of the art scene moved to Brooklyn. There's a lot more room, there's a lot of variety that Manhattan doesn't have anymore. Lots of old beautiful buildings both huge and small.

Walk around Long Island City, Astoria, and Greenpoint now. it will look like Manhattan within the decade.

To be fair though, at this point in history large cities like NYC were way more gross than they are today.

Having lived in New York, I've often thought about this possibility. I think it would only be interesting and have the charm that you imagine after having the context of seeing how it is now. If you lived back then, you wouldn't notice anything interesting about it looking different.

One of the interesting things I saw in New York, was we had a massive black out and a fair portion of the city was dark. It also looks very interesting then, but only because of the context of knowing the lights and how that looks.

Watch the video: Reinhold Roth 4 March 1953 15 October 2021 (August 2022).