Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Kriegmarine Command Doctrine

German Kenngruppenheft (a U-boat codebook with grouped key codes)

The strategic and operational impact of Allied codebreaking also played a critical role in ensuring Allied victory in the Atlantic. The history of efforts to break the German codes during the Second World War—“the Ultra secret”—is well known. The Kriegsmarine’s codes were among the last to be routinely read, but by 1941 British codebreakers were beginning to penetrate the German navy’s main code. Although the definitive impact of codebreaking is impossible to establish, Hinsley, the author of the official and most authoritative account of Ultra and its significance, wrote of the battle of the Atlantic: “The very fact that the struggle was so prolonged and so finely balanced suggests that the ability to read [German] communications must have been an asset of crucial importance to the Allies.” Codebreaking allowed the Allies to reroute shipping, reinforce threatened convoys, disrupt U-boat patrols, sink important German assets such as the U-tankers needed to replenish the fuel and supplies of the U-boats at sea, and gain remarkable insight into the workings of the U-boat command structure.

In retrospect it is clear that, at the tactical, operational, and strategic levels of warfare, the Germans’ reliance on radio proved their undoing in the Atlantic. A highly centralized command structure failed, not because it denied subordinate commanders latitude in their operations, but because the network of communications itself, thanks to insecure codes, was open to the enemy.

Would the German navy have fared better with a less centralized system of command and control, perhaps akin to that employed by the Americans in their submarine campaign in the Pacific? Had BdU used such a system, deploying individual U-boats to hunt singly while maintaining radio silence, the operations of the submarine force would undoubtedly have suffered a substantial loss of efficiency. But at the same time, had their radio silence deprived the British of the wealth of intelligence they gleaned from the transmission of data demanded by BdU— names of U-boat commanders, location of boats, fuel capacity, number of torpedoes, course, speed, current orders, Dönitz’s plans and intentions and even state of mind—the effectiveness of Allied operations would have suffered as well. As for the net loss or gain, no definitive answer can be given.

It should be noted that not everyone within the Kriegsmarine high command, or even the U-boat arm, supported Dönitz’s plans for group attacks. One prewar naval staff study presciently argued “that the wireless traffic necessary would forfeit surprise and aid detection of the boats by the enemy.” Dönitz’s eve-of-war maneuvers in the Atlantic revealed many shortcomings of his concept of operations, and fed the doubts of those who opposed him. Moreover, after the war began, the Germans achieved some of their greatest successes early on, when their naval codes were not yet compromised and before they began operating in groups or wolfpacks. Before late 1941 most U-boats hunted alone, as they had in the Great War, and as American submarines did in the Pacific. Not until the first quarter of 1943 were the majority of the Allied ships sunk by U-boats vessels that had been sailing in convoy. In the first twenty-eight months of war, nine hundred Allied convoys crossed the Atlantic, but Dönitz’s U-boats achieved major victories, that is, sinking six or more confirmed ships, on only nineteen occasions. According to the historian Clay Blair, “although occasionally successful, group or ‘wolf pack’ tactics were on the whole a failure.” While it is impossible to prove, Dönitz’s heavily centralized system of command and control may well have decreased the fighting power of his submarine force.

Unternehmen Seelöwe, 1941

There are several possible outcomes, but they all have one thing in common: the fall of the British Islands in early 1941. This meta-POD is triggered by various unfavourable events for Britain during the course of the war.
  • Heute Europa, morgen... - Best-case scenario for Germany. A gruesome nightmare. Comparable to "The Man In The High Castle", albeit the US is not occupied.
  • D-Day 1946 - Commonwealth, US and Soviet troops invade Europe to rid it of the Nazi yoke. The outcome leads to a slightly different Cold War.
  • Habsburg Restoration - After a horrible war, Europe is liberated from Nazism and Fascism. A severely weakened Soviet Union is on the brink of collapse and Emperor Otto I becomes ruler of the democratic Danube Confederation, while former Prussia is isolated. This is the liberated Europe Churchill originally envisioned.
  • Atlantic Iron Curtain - After several years of bloody warfare and almost no support from the West, the Soviet Union has managed to defeat the Reich and its allies in Europe. The whole continent is covered with socialist satellite states. A cold war between a Red Old World and Capitalist America ensues.
  • Operation European Freedom - after a very bloody invasion of Britain and a long and protracted insurgency, Hitler re-evaluates Operation Barbarossa and decides not to attack the USSR. Ultimately, the USA and the British Commonwealth overthrow the third Reich, leading to a very different cold war and a far earlier War on Terror.
  • Black Cross, Red Sun - a brutal dystopian world where the US is split between Germany and Japan, and they face each other in a cold war.
  • Multilateral cold war - Hitler dies in mid-war, and the Axis manage to make peace with the USA and USSR, resulting in many blocs competing to shape the world as they see fit. Comparable to turtledove's "ready for the Fatherland", with Japan still a major power.
  • Liberty Weeping - Germany and Japan invade America in late 1946 after the Soviet Union Falls.
  • To End All Wars... - The Nazis and the Japanese defeat the USSR and a much more powerful USA takes on the exhausted axis, leading to World War 3

Action on Crete

The Allies wanted to hold the island of Crete as the site of an air base from which bombing raids against the Ploesti oilfields, vital to the German war machine, could be launched. However, the demands of other fronts left Crete weakly garrisoned by just 35,000 men (British, Commonwealth, and Greek troops), poorly armed and subject to noncohesive command. Moreover, the harsh, mountainous terrain of Crete impeded defense. Artillery and air support were virtually nil.

On May 20, German paratroops of Fliegerkorps 11, under General Kurt Student, landed at both ends of Crete. The Allies responded by broadcasting defenders across the island, spreading them thin. For their part, the Germans had underestimated the size of the island’s garrison and had to call for reinforcements from the island of Milos. The troop transports were either dispersed or sunk by British air and sea attacks. Despite this blow to the attackers, the paratroopers managed to take the airfield at Maleme, which quickly turned the tide hopelessly against the defenders.

On May 26, Lt. Gen Sir Bernard Freyberg, in command of the garrison, reported that his position was untenable. After securing permission to evacuate, he ordered a retreat on May 27 to Sphakia while troops at Heraklion were quickly evacuated by British warships. The defenders of the Retimo airfield were cut off and captured. In the meantime, the main force, at Sphakia, fell under heavy air attack, and the evacuation ships were pummeled. Three cruisers and six destroyers were sunk, and 17 other vessels were damaged. By May 30, the evacuation had to be aborted, leaving 5,000 men still on the island. Most of these were doomed to capture, but a small body escaped to join the Cretan resistance and were active until the German withdrawal from Crete in 1944.

After the Allied evacuation, Italian troops were sent to occupy the eastern Cretan provinces of Siteia and Lasitho while German troops held the rest of the island. Total losses at the Battle of Crete were 1,742 British, Greek, and Commonwealth troops killed, 2,225 wounded, and 11,370 captured. Royal Navy losses were some 2,000 men killed and 183 wounded. Losses to the Germans testified to the ferocity of the Allied defense: 7,000 were killed. Viewed by Adolf Hitler as a Pyrrhic victory, the Battle of Crete persuaded him to ban further Airborne Assaults as too costly, and, for the rest of the war, the Germans never launched another major paratroop operation.
The fight for Crete, the biggest operation of German airborne forces actually employed from the air, was over. It was as if a revolution had occurred, and no one has described that better and in more precise terms than Major General J. F. C. Fuller: 

Of all of the operations of the war, the attack from the air on Crete was by far the leader when it came to audaciousness. Neither before or afterwards was something similar attempted.
It was not an air attack but rather an attack from the air. The fighting was also not decided in the air. Instead, it was decided on the ground and without the support of a land army.
Its most salient feature was the aerial transport and the lifting of an army in the air. Just like the Battle of Cambray in 1917, this attack signaled a revolution in tactics.

The fighting on Crete, which also turned out to be the main aerial employment of the airborne corps in the entire war, was legitimized, in the final analysis, by this praise. But the consequences that Crete had for the German airborne corps were so important and so decisive that this operation had to be presented in great detail. Let us examine some of the consequences of this operation. 

It is difficult for me to write about the Battle for Crete. For me, as the commander of the German air-landed forces that conquered Crete, this name is a bitter memory. I miscalculated when I recommended this attack, and this not only meant the loss of many paratroopers, who were my sons, but also, in the end, the death of the German airborne force, which I had personally created. 

That was the conclusion drawn by Student after the war. What happened after Crete? Crete was considered a grandiose victory of the airborne corps. It was also, at the same time, the defeat of the same. Once again, Student: 

On 19 July, on the occasion of the presentation of the Knight’s Cross recipients for the Crete Operation at the Führer Headquarters in Rastenburg, Hitler said to me: 

“Crete proved that the days of the airborne corps are over! Airborne forces are a weapon of surprise. Your surprise factor has since worn out.” 

He had the highest words of praise for the performance of the men. Over the next few months, I would feel the greater import of those words of Hitler’s, when the airborne forces were sent to Russia as ground forces.

Some of the airborne forces still on Crete and others returned to their peacetime garrisons on Germany, where they were greeted with great jubilation, when the war with the Soviet Union started.

For instance, the III./FJR 1 heard the special report concerning the start of Barbarossa as it was crossing the Danube south of Budapest on its way to the Wildflecken Training Area, where the entire regiment was to be given some rest and be reconstituted.

The General Staff of the Army and the Führer Headquarters as well seemed to focus on the losses sustained in the taking of Crete. The Reich Air Ministry was shocked by the amount of transport aircraft that had been shot down or crash landed, even though the considerably smaller operations over Holland had cost more machines. But the loss of 143 Ju 52’s, not including 8 that disappeared without a trace (presumably lost at sea) and 121 damaged aircraft was a number that cut to the quick.

Soon there were more than enough advice givers who attempted to convince Hitler that the employment of airborne forces was something akin to a lottery. Hitler allowed himself to be convinced by this whispering campaign, especially since he also considered the losses at Crete too high and did not want to initiate another operation that was so doubtful. He directed that the paratroopers were to be employed in the Soviet Union on the ground.

That might have worked well if the entire airborne force had been employed as an organic whole. Instead, however, the forces were split up into small contingents and employed piecemeal on different parts of the front.

Further reading: Beevor, Antony. Crete: The Battle and the Resistance. Denver: Westview Press, 1994; Forty, George. Battle of Crete. Hersham, U.K.: Ian Allan, 2002; Shores, Christopher, Brian Cull, and Nicola Malizia. Air War for Yugoslavia Greece and Crete 1940–41. London: Grub Street, 1993; Willingham, Matthew. Perilous Commitments: Britain’s Involvement in Greece and Crete 1940–41. London: Spellmount, 2004.

The Best Alternative Histories in Literature - Abe Books

The Plot Against America: A Novel

Philip Roth

"What if" scenarios are often suspect. They are sometimes thinly veiled tales of the gospel according to the author, taking on the claustrophobic air of a personal fantasia that can't be shared. Such is not the case with Philip Roth's tour de force, The Plot Against America. It is a credible, fully-realized picture of what could happen anywhere, at any time, if the right people and circumstances come together.

The Plot Against America explores a wholly imagined thesis and sees it through to the end: Charles A. Lindbergh defeats FDR for the Presidency in 1940. Lindbergh, the "Lone Eagle," captured the country's imagination by his solo Atlantic crossing in 1927 in the monoplane, Spirit of St. Louis, then had the country's sympathy upon the kidnapping and murder of his young son. He was a true American hero: brave ...


The Anglo/American Nazi War


Before examining the actual final conflict between the Western democracies, chiefly Canada, Great Britain, and the United States and Nazi Germany, it is worth reviewing the circumstances that brought the world to that critical juncture.

In 1939 Nazi Germany, then also called the “Third Reich” or simply the Reich, had initiated the European Phase of the Second World War with the invasion of Poland, At the time of the invasion Germany was in a state of near alliance with the Soviet Union with Soviet oil and agriculture providing much of Reich’s fuel and food. Poland was supported by both France and Great Britain and the two Western states had made clear that an attack on Poland would lead to war. It has long been debated why the Democracies waited until the Polish crisis to confront the still developing German war machine, but the decisions made in both London and Paris in late summer of 1939 were resolute and both nations believed that their combined power would be sufficient to deter Adolph Hitler’s Germany from aggression against Poland. On September 1, 1939 Hitler demonstrated his contempt for, and disbelief in, the Democracies statements and warnings when the German military (or, as it was known at the time, the Wehrmacht) crossed the international frontier separating Germany and Poland, and unleashed an early version of mechanized warfare against the Polish Army. Shortly after the Reich’s invasion of Poland, its quasi-ally the Soviet Union entered Poland and annexed a significant portion of the country’s eastern provinces. Strangely, this action caused no reaction by either the British or French governments while those of the Reich were responded to with declarations of war.

Despite these Declarations, and the fact that Hitler had focused well over 80% of his total military strength against the Poles, neither France nor Britain made any serious attempt to attack Germany at this point of greatest vulnerability. Much like the decisions made as early as 1936, this failure to act has been the subject of enormous debate among military professions for almost three generations with no consensus having been reached beyond a general agreement that the period from September through mid-November 1939 represents one of the great missed opportunities in military history. Considering the results this failure must also be considered to be one of the starkest tragedies in human memory.

Following a period of time dubbed the Phony War by the era’s media, German forces invaded Norway in March and then attacked France and the Low Countries in May of 1940, achieving strategic surprise despite the existing state of war between the Germans and the Democracies of the West. Much as had been the case in Poland in 1939, German mobile tactics, built around armored formations supported by air power, proved to be insoluble by Allied commanders. While the failure of the Poles to contain and defeat German spearheads can be at least partially explained by lack of proper equipment, the same can not be said for the inexplicable collapse of both the British and French armies which had equal, if not superior equipment, especially in the area of tanks and motorization. Whatever the cause, the Reich’s invasion of Western Europe was a stunning and rapid success. By the end of June 1940 Germany and her Italian ally controlled all of Western Europe save the British Isles, Iberian Peninsula, and Switzerland

While Germany was demonstrating a stunning efficiency, their Fascist Italy partner was showing nearly the exact opposite. Whether the result of poor civilian leadership, or a case of Military General Staff incompetence on a grand scale the independent Italian war effort proved to be a disaster for the Italian people. An ill-advised adventure into Greece was retrieved from defeat solely by the intervention of Wehrmacht forces sent by Hitler to save his Italian ally. Unfortunately for Rome Hitler proved to be unwilling to send German forces to Africa when Italian forces found themselves overmatched by British Commonwealth forces in the North African Desert. When the British, with the support of “Free French” political leaders, used Italy’s attacks into the Middle East as a pretext to seize French Colonies in the region and depose the pro-Axis Shah of Iran, Hitler presented Mussolini with an ultimatum demanding that Italy take no further actions outside of Europe until the Bolsheviks had been defeated or face the loss of all German support. Faced with the prospect of losing his gains in Greece and the portion of France that had been ceded to Rome by Hitler as spoils, Mussolini relented. The resulting low level naval war in the Mediterranean persisted until the end of active hostilities in Europe without causing any significant impact on the war’s outcome. The end of German activity in the Mediterranean Theater also marked the effective end of active combat with Commonwealth Forces in all areas except the North Atlantic, where Germany waged a serious, and quite nearly successful submarine warfare campaign against shipping headed to Great Britain.

In June of 1941, after nearly a full year of preparation, Germany launched Operation Barbarossa, the invasion of its erstwhile ally, the Soviet Union. Thanks, in large part, to the remarkable failure of Josef Stalin to react in any reasonable manner to pre-attack intelligence reports regarding German build-ups on the frontier pre-invasion and Stalin’s post invasion ham handed intervention in the actual conduct of Red Army operations German forces made huge gains in the war’s opening months before the first year’s campaign was brought to a close by the Russian winter. The winter of 1941-42 was where the Reich’s year long preparation for Barbarossa first bore fruit. Having anticipated defeating the Soviets in the war’s first few months, the Germans had amassed a large amount of winter uniforms and equipment for the expected occupation forces (and, unknown to most of the Wehrmacht’s planning staff, Einsatzguppen detachments) that allowed German ground force to endure the very poor conditions better than the shattered elements of the Red Army.

In December of 1941, following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor (covered in detail in Volume II) Germany declared War on the United States. While this put Germany into a state of war with the UK, USSR and U.S., the situation was not nearly as severe as first glance would indicate. The Reich had begun construction of massive defensive fortifications along the entire French Coast. Foreshadowing the horrors to come more than 80% of the labor engaged in construction of the so called “Atlantic Wall” and other German military facilities in the Occupied Territories was provided by what can only be described as slaves brought in to do this manual labor from Poland and culled from among Russian PoW’s (in direct violation of the Hague Agreements). By early 1942 these fortifications already made any thought of attacking into France via the capture of a port virtual suicide. Combined with the general lack of preparedness of American ground forces in the winter of 1941/42 Germany did not face a true two front war danger for at least a year and a half from the time of America’s entry into the war. It was time the Reich spent very well.

In the spring of 1942 the German’s resumed their offensive in the USSR. This offensive met with nearly the same successes as in the previous year. . In the early summer a drive toward the Caucuses was undertaken, including a serious drive to the Volga. The key position in this southern section of the Soviet Union was centered on the City of Stalingrad. For reasons both practical and symbolic the engagement here was determined to be one that neither side could lose. Losses on both sides were dramatic, beyond anything seen to that point in the European Phase. It was not until October 12 that German forces completed their isolation of the city’s defenders when the took what both sides had come to call “The Crossing”, the only location on the western side of the Volga where Soviet reinforcements could land in support of the City. Loss of the crossing meant inevitable loss of Stalingrad. While small units of Red Army force fought until early January, the inability of the Soviets to resupply the forces in the city made the heroic stand of these small units all the more tragic. Moreover, the capture of the Crossing released better than 240,000 troops of the 6th Army for duty along the rest of the Volga line before winter fell.

Stalin, never the most forgiving of leaders, reacted violently to the loss of his namesake city, Most of Stavka (the Soviet High command), including Marshall Georgy Zhukov, perhaps the most forward thinking Soviet commander at the time along with Marshall Timoshenko, the head of the General Staff, as well as virtually every surviving general officer and Commissar on the Southwest Front received a six minute trial, followed by a bullet between the eyes. These actions, even more than the actual loss of the City and use of the Volga, were to prove a disaster to the Red Army, one from which it was never to fully recover.

Shorn of most of its planners and leadership by Stalin’s fit of pique Operations Jupiter and Mars, the Soviet attempts to counterattack in March of 1943 were an unmitigated disasters, with Red Army losses totaling over 850,000 men killed, wounded, and captured. When Stalin died on March 23rd 1943, reputedly of a heart attack, although persistent rumors exist to this day that the death was anything but natural, the power vacuum atop the USSR led to a general collapse of Soviet resistance as NKVD and Red Army units fought for position and personal survival. When Beria’s NKVD faction was defeated by a group that had Foreign Minister Molotov as figurehead, the situation had deteriorated to the point where the USSR was forced to seek terms from the Reich.

Unsurprisingly, these terms were well beyond harsh and both eviscerated the USSR and greatly enhanced the German state. The bounty received by the Reich was staggering, ranging from Soviet gold reserves to fully operational munitions factories to thousands of tons of raw material and supplies that had been produced in American factories and sent to the Soviets as part of Lend-Lease. The remarkable amount and quality of the Lend-Lease materials is reputed to have caused Grand Admiral Raeder of the Kreigsmarine (as the German Navy was known at the time) to state “maybe we shouldn’t have sank so many of those Murmansk convoys!”. While the accuracy of this legend will never be known, it would have been an accurate statement.

The State of the War in the West 1942-43

Thursday, February 19, 2015

EMW A12/(I) Rocket

EMW A12/(I): 3-stage Rocket for cargo-transportation between continents and in space (Project Peenemünde/Bad Sachsa, 1945)

The A12 design was a true orbital rocket. It was proposed as a four-stage vehicle, comprising A12, A11, A10 and A9 stages. Calculations suggested it could place as much as 10 tonnes payload in Low Earth Orbit.

The A12 stage itself would have weighed around 3,500 tonnes fully fuelled, and would have stood 33 m (108 ft) high. It was to have been propelled by 50 A10 engines, fuelled by liquid oxygen and alcohol.

Thrust of first stage: 12800t

Lift capacity: 30.000 kg

Development stage at war end: unknown, CIOS-intel says it was 'beyond the board', except one drawing no official known original sources left.

Source: Georg, Friedrich: Hitlers Siegeswaffen, Band 2, Teilband B, AMUN-Verlag Schleusingen 2004, p.149 and 219f.



“The following are the salient features of The Bell, according to information Cook received from both German and Czech sources.

“(1)  The Bell was reportedly a metallic object, approximately 9 feet in diameter and 12 - 15 feet tall.

“(2)  It looked like a bell; hence, its codename to the Germans, die Glocke.

“(3)  It was comprised of two counter-rotating cylinders, rotating a purplish, liquid-metallic-looking substance at high speeds that was code-named ‘Xerum 525’ by the Germans.

“(4)  Xerum 525 was apparently highly radioactive, purple in color, and was housed in cylinders with lead lining about 30 centimeters (12 inches) thick.

“(5)  The Bell apparently required high amounts of electrical power in its operation.

“(6)  During use, it could only be run for approximately one to two minutes, as it apparently gave off strong radiation and/or other electromagnetic or unknown field effects.

(a)  Several scientist died on its first operation.

(b)  Subsequent tests included various plants and animals, all of which decomposed into a blackish goo and without normal putrefaction, within a matter of a few minutes or hours after exposure to its field effects when in operation.

(c)  Technicians near the Bell during these experiments reported metallic tastes in their mouths after being exposed to it.

(d)  The chamber in which the Bell was tested was lined with ceramic bricks and rubber mats, and had to have its rubber matting removed and burned after each test. It was subsequently washed down with brine by inmates from nearby concentration camps.

“(7)  All the scientists and witnesses who saw or worked on the Bell were allegedly murdered by the SS as the war neared its end.

“(8  The Bell was transplanted out of Silesia to a destination that has never been discovered. [ Silesia is an historical region of Central Europe located in contemporary Poland, the Czech Republic and Germany.] The Bell, along with General Kammler himself, simply disappeared entirely from history, never to be seen again. It is believed, however, that both the Bell and General Kammler were transported by U-boat to a base outside of the Reich (Base 211 in Neu Schwabenland, Antarctica being the strongest candidate). Others suggest Norway where German troops still held that territory.

The rotation of the object, and presumably the radioactive liquid-metal called "Xerum 525", suggests that the Germans were investigating the inertial and vortex properties of radioactive material when subjected to high speed rotation, as well as the resulting field effects.

It is likely that this rotation was caused by passing a current through the liquid - hence the high power consumption - but the possibility of mechanical rotation should not be ruled out in addition to this, as German progress in jet engine turbines and uranium centrifuges would have given them the experience to construct very high speed turbines for rotating such material for study. In this sense, it is possible that the Bell was nothing more than two counter-rotating ultra-high speed turbines That is to say, the Bell may have been an ultra high speed electro- mechanical turbine of some sort, an offshoot, perhaps, of German centrifuge technology development.

The housing of this device in an underground chamber lined with ceramic brick and rubber mats suggests that it gave off extremely strong electro-magnetic or electro-static field effects as well as high heat when in operation. The reporting of metallic tastes in the mouths of what few surviving personnel there are suggests this. The quick decay without apparent putrefaction of organic material within its field suggests effects that some would associate with scalar waves.

But what was the mysterious "Xerum 525"? When first investigating this strange material, the first thought is that it might be some radioactive isotope of mercury, or possibly a more radioactive substance in chemical solution of some sort. It is perhaps worth noting that recently a strange substance known as "red mercury", or mercury antominate oxide, has been alleged to have strong neutron emitting properties when subjected to sudden explosive stress, and is alleged to be a non-fissile method of triggering the enormous fusion reactions of hydrogen bombs, as well as being able, in its own right, of fission explosions in the small kiloton range. Perhaps the Nazis had stumbled onto a similar such substance during the war.

(The Bell in a movie)
Outpost (2008)

In a seedy bar in a town ravaged by war, mysterious businessman Hunt hires ex-marine D.C. to assemble a crack team of ex-soldiers to protect him on a dangerous journey into no-man's land. To this gang of hardened warriors, battle-worn veterans and borderline criminals killing is just a job - and one they enjoy. Their mission - to scope out an old military bunker. It should be easy - 48 hours at the most. Lots of cash for little risk, or so he says. Once at the outpost, the men make a horrific discovery that turns their mission on its head - the scene of a bloody and gruesome series of experiments, carried out by the Nazis on their own soldiers during WWII. Amid the carnage, they find something even more disturbing - someone who's still alive. As war rages above ground, and a mysterious enemy emerges from the darkness below, D.C. and his men find themselves trapped in a claustrophobic and terrifying scenario. Their mission is no longer one of safe-guarding - it's one of survival. Together they must discover why Hunt has brought them to the outpost - and what it is that's killing them off, one by one.


The sole example of the Me 264, the original 'Amerikabomber', first flew in December 1942. Such close attention was paid to its aerodynamic properties that the joints in the wings and fuselage were filled with putty.

The Luftwaffe, we may recall, was intended as a tactical, rather than a strategic, air force, unlike the USAAF and the RAF, and it never operated really large, long-range bomber aircraft, like the American B-17 Flying Fortress or B-24 Liberator, or the British Lancaster, in any substantial numbers. It had aircraft, like the Focke-Wulf FW 200 'Condor' and the Junkers Ju 290 (though the former was designed as a civilian airliner and the latter was a hasty transformation of another), which were capable of flying very long distances, but these were intended primarily for ultra-long-range maritime reconnaissance, and while they did carry bombs (and variants of both carried glider bombs), they were unsuitable for use in combat conditions. Thus, when the USA declared war on Germany in December 1941, the Luftwaffe found itself without the means of attacking its new-found enemy, and the RLM immediately issued a specification for a suitable aircraft.

Three companies responded: Focke-Wulf with the Ta 400; Messerschmitt with the Me 264; and Junkers with the Ju 390. The Ta 400 was never built; the latter, which was little more than a Ju 290 stretched in wings and fuselage with two more engines, was reasonably straightforward, and the first prototype flew in August 1943. The second protype had a still longer fuselage and carried FuG 200 Hohentweil search radar and five 20mm cannon. On a test flight from Mont de Marsan on the Atlantic coast of France, near Bordeaux, it once approached to within 20km (12.4 miles) of New York before returning safely to base, thus validating the operational concept. A third prototype, this time a version able to carry 1800kg (39701b) of bombs, was begun but never completed.

In fact, certain individuals at the RLM had begun to contemplate the possibility of bombing New York long before the United States entered the war, and Willy Messerschmitt for one had begun to think about a design for a suitable aircraft. His company was thus well placed to satisfy the requirement when it was issued in December 1941, and the prototype Me 264 made its first flight just 12 months later. With enough fuel to reach New York and return safely (a flight of anything up to 30 hours!), it could carry 3000kg (66001b) of bombs, and still had enough capacity to carry 1000kg (22001b) of armour plating. It had two complete three-man crews with a sleeping area and galley, and an elaborate defensive armament of four 13mm machine guns and two 20mm cannon. Under overload conditions, the aircraft could be fitted with up to six solid fuel rockets to assist it to take off. A bewildering array of variants and variations were suggested, including one to tow an Me 328 glider fighter for protection, and another which would have been the flying testbed for a steam turbine powerplant. Two prototypes were begun; the first was destroyed in an air raid just as it was about to begin ground tests, but the second was completed and flew, being allocated to Transportstaffel 5, which operated other large aircraft types in the transport role. A version with greater wingspan and six engines was contemplated, but never produced. Thus the first round of the 'Amerikabomber' contest made no more than a token impact.

RLM, near the end of the war, had resurrected the 'Amerikabomber' programme, but the planemakers selected - Arado, Focke-Wulf, Heinkel, Junkers and Messerschmitt - had made little progress. Siegfried Kneymeyer then contacted the Horten brothers and asked them to turn their attention to a bomber with trans-Atlantic range. Not surprisingly, they came up with a flying wing, essentially an enlarged Ho IX, which they called the P. 18. All the would-be contenders were summoned to a conference at the RLM in February 1945, and the Horten design was selected for production. The brothers were instructed to work with designers from Junkers and Messerschmitt, but the proposed consortium soon fell apart when more conservative elements insisted on adding a large fin and hinged rudder to the design. Reimar Horten then went directly to Goring with a modified plan for the P. 18B, employing four HeS 011 engines in place of six Jumo 004s or BMW 003s, saving 1000kg (22001b) with little loss of thrust. The aircraft, he confidently predicted, would have a range of 11,000km (6835 miles) at 850km/h (530 mph) and fly at an altitude of 16,000m (52,500ft) with a 4000kg (88001b) bombload. He was told to go ahead and build it, but by that time the war had only 10 weeks to run and it is doubtful whether detailed plans were drawn up, though they may have been later, as both brothers continued to work in aviation for the rest of their lives, Walter eventually becoming a leading light in the new Luftwaffe, Reimar in the aircraft industry in Argentina.

Junkers had, in addition to Hans Wocke, two other extremely talented designers in Ernst Zindel and Heinrich Hertel. These three soon responded to the new-found interest in all-wing aircraft and proposed one such of their own as Project 130. It is suggested that Hertel had produced the Ju 287 design only as a means of gaining experience in the sort of aerodynamics required by the P. 130, but it is worth bearing in mind that he had acquired some relevant experience with the Ju 322. Similar in character to the Hortens' P. 18B, the P. 130 had a shorter range (around 5800km; 3600 miles), and was apparently intended to operate against targets in Soviet Asia and in England from bases in Prussia. The 'committee-modified' version of the P. 18A, with the addition of the long triangular tail fin, became the Junkers P. 140, with the range to carry 4.06 tonnes (4 tons) of bombs to New York. Like the P. 18B, it was ordered into production, but work had hardly begun before the underground factory in the Harz mountains where it was to have been built was overrun.

Lockheed L-133 interceptor

Nathan Price (r) and Hall Hibbard examining an XJ-37 (L-1000) turbojet engine.

A 3 view plane of the Lockheed L-133-02-01

The Lockheed L-133 was designed to be the first jet fighter of the US Forces during the first half of World War II.

The Lockheed aviation company was the first in the United States to start work on a jet-powered aircraft, the L-133 design started in 1939 as a number of "Paper Projects" by engineers Clarence "Kelly" Johnson, Willis Hawkins and Hall J Hibbard. By 1940 preliminary work on a company financed jet fighter had been started, which progressed to several different versions on the drawing board. In the meantime Lockheed were working on an axial-flow L-1000 turbojet engine of their own design, which was intended to power the culmination of the jet fighter project, the Model L-133-02-01.

Throughout World War II, the development of a jet-powered fighter had the potential to bring a decisive advantage in the air battles of the war; as history played out only the Luftwaffe built significant numbers of jet fighters before World War II ended, and they reached service too late to make a difference.

On March 30, 1942, Lockheed formally submitted the L-133-02-01 to the United States Army Air Forces for consideration. Powered by two L-1000 turbojets and featuring a futuristic-appearing canard design with slotted flaps to enhance lift, the single-seat fighter was expected to have a top speed of 612 mph (985 km/h) in level flight.

The L-133 had a main wing shape that should be familiar to World War II aviation buffs: essentially the outer wing sections of a Lockheed P-38. In many respects the L-133 was far ahead of its time, with futuristic features including:

    canard layout
    blended wing-body planform
    two engines in a very low-drag integral fuselage location

The USAAF considered the L-133 to be too advanced for the time, and did not pursue the project.[1] However the experience gained with the design would serve Lockheed well in the development of the USAAF's first operational jet fighter, the P-80 Shooting Star. Although entering service after World War II had ended, the P-80 was less advanced than the L-133. Because the USAAF didn't give the L-133 project the go-ahead, the advanced engines intended for the L-133 had long pauses in their development. The most expedient engine choice for the P-80 thus became the Allison J33 based on British centrifugal compressor designs. The P-80 was a cheap-to-build single-engined aircraft with a very conventional wing and tailplane design, not using the blended wing-body and canard layout of the L-133.

Specifications (L-133-02-01)
General characteristics
    Crew: 1
    Length: 48 ft 4 in (14.73 m)
    Wingspan: 46 ft 8 in (14.22 m)
    Wing area: 325 ft² (30.194 m²)
    Powerplant: 2 × Lockheed L-1000 axial-flow turbojets, 5100 lbf (23 kN) each each
    Maximum speed: 612 mph (985 km/h)
    4 × 20mm nose-mounted cannon


Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Landkreuzer P. 1000 Ratte

The Landkreuzer P. 1000 Ratte was a design for a huge tank for use by Nazi Germany during World War II. It was designed in 1942 by Krupp with the approval of Adolf Hitler, but the project was canceled by Albert Speer in early 1943 and no tank was ever completed. At 1,000 metric tons, the P-1000 would have been over five times as heavy as the Panzer VIII Maus, the largest tank ever built.

The development history of the Ratte originated with a 1941 strategic study of Soviet heavy tanks conducted by Krupp, the study also giving birth to the Panzer VIII Maus superheavy tank. The study led to a suggestion from Krupp director Grote, special officer for submarine construction, who on June 23, 1942 proposed to Hitler a 1,000-tonne tank which he named a Landkreuzer. It was to be armed with naval artillery and armored with 9 inches (23 cm) of hardened steel, so heavily that only similar weapons could hope to affect it. To compensate for its immense weight, the Ratte would have been equipped with three 1.2 metre (3.9 ft) wide treads on each side with a total tread width of 7.2 metres (24 ft). This would help stability and weight distribution, but the vehicle's sheer mass would have destroyed roads and rendered bridge crossings completely impractical. However, it was anticipated that its height, and its ground clearance of 2 metres (6.6 ft) would have allowed it to ford most rivers with ease.

Hitler became enamored with Grote's concept and ordered Krupp to begin development on it in 1942. As of December 29, 1942 a few preliminary drawings had been completed, by which time the concept had been named Ratte (Rat). Albert Speer canceled the project in 1943 before any were actually constructed.

The Ratte was to be propelled by two MAN V12Z32/44 24 cylinder marine diesel engines of 8,500 hp (6.2 MW) each (as used in U-boats) or eight Daimler-Benz MB 501 20 cylinder marine diesel engines of 2,000 hp (1.5 MW) each (as used in E-boats) to achieve the 16,000 hp (11.8 MW) needed to move this tank. The engines were to be provided with snorkels also like those pioneered by German submarines. The snorkels were of course designed to provide a way for oxygen to reach the engine, even during amphibious operations passing through deep water.

The Ratte's primary weapons would have been two 280 mm SK C/34 naval guns mounted in a modified naval heavy cruiser turret as used in the Gneisenau-class warships, fitting two guns instead of three. One such turret was supposedly built before the project was canceled, although documentation of its whereabouts is missing. It is rumored that the prototype turret was used as a coastal gun emplacement in occupied Netherlands near Rotterdam, but it now appears this turret was actually built to the specifications of the Gneisenau class and was unconnected to the Ratte program.

Further armament was to consist of a 128 mm anti-tank gun of the type used in the Jagdtiger or Maus, two 15 mm Mauser MG 151/15 autocannons, and eight 20 mm Flak 38 anti-aircraft guns, probably with at least four of them as a quad mount. The 128 mm anti-tank gun's precise location on the Ratte is a point of contention among historians, most believing that it would have been mounted within the primary turret, with some others thinking a smaller secondary turret at the rear of the Ratte more logical. some concept drawings exist to suggest a flexible mount on the glacis plate. The tank was to be provided with a vehicle bay sufficient to hold two BMW R12 motorcycles for scouting, as well as several smaller storage rooms, a compact infirmary area, and a self-contained lavatory system.


Welcome to Hikoki: 1946. Hikoki, which roughly means airplane, and the year 1946 combine to present to you what might have been had the Japanese air arm and industry had another year with which to develop and deploy their experimental aircraft. In the recent years, there has been an explosion of information on German experimental aircraft. Books, videos, and websites abound with details, images, and speculation on these planes. But there has been a noticable vacuum when it comes to Japanese experimental ( or X-craft ) aircraft. Sure, you may see some of the more common ones mentioned, but there is so much more and unless you had access to Japanese bookstores or the ability to dig through scores of old magazines and books, you'd come up short on the depth and breadth of Japanese X-craft projects. The purpose of this website is to display and describe these planes and fill a very noticable hole in the WWW community for such data.

Hikoki:1946 will present not only those X-planes developed during the war years, but also those which came before the war and which were no less fantastic and novel. You will also find described German aircraft, some experimental in their own right, which the Japanese were either given or purchased in an attempt to hasten their technological edge and stem the Allied tide. You will find a wealth of history, aircraft descriptions, technical specifications, and scores of images on the various planes and much more, including engine specs, the influence of the Germans on the Japanese aviation scene, and what happened to captured Japanese aircraft postwar.

It is hoped that Hikoki:1946 will become a valuable resource and display the skill and ingenuity of the Japanese air industry. This site seeks to reveal to you the exotic and advanced aircraft Japan sought to field in the waning weeks of the war...and, as was the case with Germany, simply ran out of time to fully exploit their abilities.


Featured Book: The Burning Mountain

The Burning Mountain
Alfred Coppel

America’s first atom bomb test fails and the US is forced to invade Japan in 1946.

Most Americans are familiar with the end of World War II, that the war ended after the dropping of two atomic bombs on Japan. What many, if not most, Americans do not know is that a detailed plan for the invasion of Japan had been mapped out and would have been put into place if the atomic bombs did not work or were not ready.

The plan consisted of two parts. Operation Olympic would have been the invasion of Kyushu, the southernmost major island in Japan. American forces, with minimal involvement of other allied nations, would have invaded the island and taken over enough of the island to build numerous air bases. The second part of the plan was Operation Coronet, which was to be the invasion of the Tokyo basin area. It would have been an effort that would have dwarfed the operations in Normandy.

There was also a sort of sub-plan, based on use of the atomic bombs. Nine would have been scheduled for use, three of them to bomb the beaches that the American troops would land on, and three more behind the beach area. This was supposed to have reduced enemy resistance and allowed a relatively easy foothold to have been obtained. Three other bombs were to be held in reserve, to be used if the Japanese tried to move reinforcements in.

This fiction book is based on the premise that the initial testing of the atomic bomb did not occur as planned. There was going to be a delay, and so Operation Coronet was put into effect. (In the book Operation Olympic has already happened, and the Americans control around half the island.)

The book features a variety of characters, quite well done, and a very realistic, and very brutal, description of the war conditions and what happens to soldiers when they are killed. It's very graphic and could upset some readers.

The description of the attack itself is very well done (and is based on the actual plans for the invasion), and the description of the Japanese resistance is also well done. The book goes along with the idea that the Japanese civilians would have willingly participated in resisting the Americans, and would have used bamboo poles and anything else they could have to kill Americans. The civilian casualty rate, under such conditions, would have been tremendous (and the political pressure back in the states from the newspapers carrying articles about the “massacres” would also have been tremendous.)

The book also does a good job showing what can go right in such an invasion, and what can go wrong, and what the cost in when things go wrong.

The book deals a lot with the Japanese suicide efforts, including the kamikaze planes, but also including small boats, men underwater with bombs attached to them, and even civilians carrying explosives that they would detonate when Americans came near. 

There's a lot of what we would call treachery on the part of the Japanese in this novel, although from their viewpoint it was just them defending their homeland.

This is a really, really good book covering what very probably would have happened during any such Operation Coronet.