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This Day in WWII 11 October 1939 - 1945


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GoodyearAd-Oct1942.jpg Goodyear Ad - October 1942

1939: British Expeditionary Force on continent reaches strength of 158,000 in five weeks.

1939: The Soviet Union and Finland begin negotiations concerning the establishment of Soviet air bases on Finnish soil. The Soviet Union also requires Finland to cede territory around lake Ladoga and the Gulf of Finland, plus the Petsamo area in northern Finland. In return the Soviet Union offers to give Finland a chunk of desolate land in central Karelia. The Finns reject the Soviet demands fearing that to accept will only encourage further Soviet demands.

Hillary%20Brooke1.jpg *Hillary Brooke

1941: Rumours of an impending capture of Moscow by the German Army cause thousands of civilians to flee the city.

1941: Erich Koch, Reich commisar in Ukraine, announces the closing of all schools there. According to Koch, "Ukraine children need no schools. What they'll have to learn will be taught to them later by their German masters."

Hillary%20Brooke2.jpg Hillary Brooke

1942: The first night raid on Britain by Luftwaffe for 15 days.

1942: The US Navy surprises a Japanese naval squadron in the night 'Battle of Cape Esperance', off Savo Island in the Solomons. The Japanese lose one cruiser and a destroyer, while the US Navy loses just a single destroyer.

Hillary%20Brooke3.jpg Hillary Brooke

1944: The RAF complete the flooding of Walcheren with a 102-bomber raid near Veete.

1944: The Red Army captures Klausenburg in Romania as Hungary and the Soviet Union begin negotiations for a ceasefire.

BFGoodrich-Oct1943.jpg B.F. Goodrich Ad - October 1943

1944: U.S. air raids against Okinawa begin.

1945: Negotiations between Nationalist leader Chiang Kai-shek and Communist leader Mao Tse-tung break down. Nationalist and Communist troops are soon engaged in a civil war.

Hillary%20Brooke4.jpg Hillary Brooke

*A former model, the tall (5'6") blonde was born Beatrice Peterson on September 8, 1914 in Astoria, New York but in films spoke with a cultured accent. Brooke developed this early in her career to separate herself from other sexy blonde actresses. She appeared in "Africa Screams" (1949) and "Abbott and Costello Meet Captain Kidd" (1952) with the comedy team, and was a regular on "The Abbott and Costello Show". She also co-starred in three Sherlock Holmes movies with Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce, including "The Woman in Green" (1945).

Her other film credits include "Jane Eyre" (1944), "Ministry of Fear" (1944), "The Enchanted Cottage" (1945), the Alfred Hitchcock thriller, "The Man Who Knew Too Much" (1956), the 3-D film "The Maze" (1953), and the sci-fi B-movie classic "Invaders from Mars" (1953).

Hillary%20Brooke5.jpg Gloria Stuart and Hillary Brooke visit with two convalescing patients in O'Reilly General Army Hospital, Springfield, Missouri - 1944

In "The Abbott and Costello Show", which was broadcast in the early 1950s but syndicated for decades afterwards, Brooke played the role of a straitlaced, classy fellow tenant of the rooming house where the two main characters lived. She was treated with deference by the duo and was not a target of pranks and slapstick. As the love interest of Lou Costello, she always addressed him as "Louis". Like the other main characters, her character's name in the show was her real name.

On September 28, 1957, she played Doris Cole in the second episode of the "Perry Mason" TV show, titled "The Case of the Sleepwalker's Niece". She was also a regular on the 1952-1955 TV series "My Little Margie".

Hillary Brooke was married to Raymond A. Klune (an executive at MGM) from 1960 until his death on September 24, 1988. She had two children, a son Donald Klune and a stepdaughter, Carol Klune.

Brooke was also married to Jack Voglin.

On May 25, 1999, Brooke died from blood clot in the lung at a hospital in Fallbrook, California. She was survived by her children, a brother Arthur Peterson; 17 grandchildren, and 11 great-grandchildren.

For her contribution to the television industry, Hillary Brooke has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6307 Hollywood Boulevard.

AmericanRailroadsAd-October1945.jpg American Railroads Ad - October 1945

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Boy, those WWII admen sure loved 'em some Airacobras, didn't they?

Why not -- they were sleep, modern. They looked like the future!

Only people who could make 'em work were the Ruskies. Then again, they'd seen the future back in 1917, and they still thought it worked. Maybe Lincoln Steffens worked for Bell. :)

BTW, Donnie, thanks. Always enjoy this post.

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The P-39 wasn't bad so long as you didn't try to fly it at altitudes that would require the pilot to wear an oxygen mask. Kept low, it did ok. The British bought it based on the premise that it could fly at 400 mph true airspeed above 14,000 feet altitude. Bell actually managed to get one to do do just that, but it involved tons of work to smooth and blend skin, wing and empennage joints, then many coats of primer, all sanded smooth, followed by camo paint that was also sanded smooth. Not the sort of thing that was practical for mass produced aircraft. The British took delivery of many P-39's and when they found that the mass produced P-39 was not up to the specified standard requested, they shipped them off to the Soviets.

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The P-39 did well in the Pacific against ground targets.

Via Wikipedia...

Though outclassed by Japanese fighter aircraft, it performed well in strafing and bombing runs, often proving deadly in ground attacks on Japanese forces trying to retake Henderson Field. Guns salvaged from P-39s were sometimes fitted to Navy PT boats to increase firepower. Pacific pilots often complained about problems of performance and unreliable armament, but by the end of 1942, the P-39 units of the Fifth Air Force had claimed about 80 Japanese aircraft, with a similar number of P-39s lost. By any standard the Airacobra and its pilots held their ground against the Japanese. Fifth and Thirteenth Air Force P-39s did not score more aerial victories in the Solomons due to the aircraft's limited range and poor high altitude performance.
Airacobras first fought Japanese Zeros on 30 April 1942 in a low level action near Lae, New Guinea. From May to August 1942 combat between Airacobras and Zeros took place on a regular basis over New Guinea. Compilation of combat reports indicates the Zero was either equal to or close to the P-39 in speed at the altitudes of the various low level encounters.
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Yep, and Buzz Wagner worked hard to sell the Airacobra to pilots on New Guinea when he led a squadron there, too. Chuck Yeager enjoyed flying them in training. I even think a handful of Yanks made ace on Airacobras in the Pacific. Still, I think it was the kind of ship where you just couldn't make a mistake, not facing something like a Zero or a Ki-43. Had a nasty reputation for flat spins; not helpful when you're fielding a bunch of green pilots in one of the harshest, most hostile environments on earth. I have to believe that New Guinea's climate played hell with the Airacobra's compelx systems. Could be that after a year or so, American pilots came to grips with the Airacobra, but none of 'em complained when they were allowed to trade the Iron Dog for P-38s and P-47s (or even P-40s). Fascinating topic. I actually enjoy flying Airacobras against Japan in IL-2; it's a challenge. :)

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The P-39's major weakness was not the oxygen system, it was the lack of a supercharger. Bell's original design specified the use of a blower for increased performance above medium altitudes. I don't know off hand if the supercharger was intended to be a single- or dual-stage unit. The Merlin-powered P-51 had a two-stage blower.

The oxygen problems encountered by P-39s at Guadalcanal were the fault of the Air Corps. No one thought to send in the necessary equipment to pressurize the AirCobra systems. The equipment used by Navy and Marine aircraft was of a different type.

The P-39 certainly had other faults, but I can't help but wonder how a properly supercharged version would have worked in 1942. By the end of '42 or early '43 the airplane was obsolete anyway, from a design and function standpoint.

It's one of those 'What if ...' scenarios. What if the P-39 had entered service with a supercharged engine? The supercharger, by the way, was deleted by the Air Corps during design workup -- probably as a cost saving measure. A blown P-39 would have had a reasonable climb rate and would have been faster than the Zero. It also had the armament necessary to vaporize a Zero. How much difference the supercharged P-39 could have made in the air fighting over New Guinea is anybody's guess.

OG

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Depending on what you read, 2nd Lt. William Fiedler, Jr, was the only American ace flying an Airacobra. He flew in the 68th FS and 70th FS. On 13 January 1943 the AAF units on Guadalcanal became part of the Thirteenth Air Force. The situation on Guadalcanal itself was no longer so desperate, and the P-39 was most likely to be used to support attacks on Japanese bases across the Solomon Islands or for low level interceptions, where its problems over 15,000ft were not relevant. This period also saw the first signs of a decline in the quality of the Japanese pilots, as the early losses began to take their toll. This period also saw 2nd Lt. William Fiedler score five victories in the P-39, making him the only American air ace to become an ace in the Airacobra.

2ndLtWilliamFiedlerJr_zps29387096.jpg

Aerial Victories Officially Credited to Fiedler:
January 26, 1943 - 1 x Zero Mark 2 (Hamp)
February 4, 1943 - 1 victory
June 12, 1943 - 1 victory
June 16, 1943 - 2 victories
TOTAL = 5 victories
Fiedler was killed at accident, on June 30, 1943. While in the cockpit of his Airacobra on the ground, he was hit by a P-38 that suffered an engine failure, and both aircraft exploded. Fielder was pulled from the burning wreckage unconscious and was burned beyond recognition, and died hours later.
On another site I found this from the book 'P-39 Airacobra: Aces of World War 2' (Osprey Aircraft of the Aces No 36)

"Around a dozen AAF aces scored five kills with the P-39, although this total was far outstripped by the Soviet Red Air Force, whose pilots rated the Airacobra as one of the best lend-lease fighters of the war."

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Nice finds, guys!

Edwards Park wrote a remarkable memoir about flying P-39s on New Guinea, called Nanette. Years later, he wrote a complete account of his USAAF service, called Angels Twenty. Both are excellent reads. Park passed away a few years ago, sadly.

Now, I believe that many of the early Airacobras on New Guinea were acutally P-400s, former export models that the British refused. Some were even painted in RAF camoflauge, if memory serves. They had different armament -- more of it, IIRC -- not sure how that might have affected handling characteristics.

It's instructive to note that, compared with contemporary Soviet machinery, Airacobras were positively luxorious. I mean, they had radios. That worked. You know, little stuff like that. :) Given the superior build quaility, it's small wonder Soviet pilots thought so highly of the P-39.

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I heard we exported the P-39 to Soviet Russia with Vodka bottle holders in the cockpit as standard equipment. You'd have to be drunk on your ass to fly an Airacobra into combat against German AA. Oh and sheepskin seat covers to keep Ivan's ass warm during the winter months. Dyed dark brown. Wouldn't want Comrade Corporal Ground Crew Assistant thinking Comrade Officer Pilot came back from mission with crap in his flight suit. Lowers morale for the boys on the ground. Comrade Corporal Ground Crew Assistant cannot smell aroma of shit since all Russian Military food smells and tastes like shit. Especially Lend Lease food from Britain. :D

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The P-400 had a 20mm cannon instead of the 37mm in the P-39. The Soviets loved the 37mm gun. It apparently was the perfect weapon to attack vehicles with, including Panzer through at least the Mk IV.

Soviet pilots loved American planes for lots of reasons, but I've seen one mentioned several times. Heaters. Not only did the US planes have heaters -- they worked. :)

OG

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On that 37 mm gun: Packed a whallop, but from what I understand, it had a pretty low rate of fire. Well, that's what Park said in his memoir, anyway. I think he said it was prone to jams, too. Modeled that way in IL2, if memory serves. Great for ground targets, though, as you say, Jim.

There was a static campaign for IL2 that used P-39s called Kokoda Trail, set in New Guinea. I did pretty well as long as I boomed and zoomed the Airacobra. Getting low and slow never worked out well. When I built my Guadalcanal campaign I wrote a few missions with P-400s, and they always got slaughtered when ZEKEs jumped them -- the Japanese almost always attacked from altitude when they raided CACTUS, leaving the Airacobras at a disadvantage.

Seems to me that a P-39 could probably turn with an Me-109, especially down low, but pretty much nothing in the Allied inventory could outurn a Zero. The Airacobra wasn't an ideal platform to learn those lessons against the Japanese in 1942. Once the lessons were learned, of course, better aircraft were available.

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I don't think there were any Allied aircraft that could out turn the A6M, at least up through the A6M5. Beyond the A6M5, the Zeke got heavier as weapons and armor were added, but engine technology and fuel quality did not compensate for the added weight. Older U.S. aircraft such as the P-39, P-40, and F4F could not out climb nor climb with the early A6M's, but the P-38, P-51, F6F, and F4U could climb with or out climb the A6M. I used this climbing ability to my advantage numerous times in IL-2 Sturmovik : Pacific Fighters and again in 1946. I would just put my F4U into a climbing turn, preferably to starboard, and watch the pretty tracers arcing well below my crate. That either gave enough time for one of my squad mates to find me and dispatch the Zeke or the bandit would be lured into higher altitudes where I had the advantage. That was one thing that the IL2 series got right.

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Yeah Stans, I remember some of those missions I wrote portraying the early raids on Guadalcanal. Historically, I think the BETTYs used to bore in at around 12,000 feet. It took Wildcats about 30 minutes real-time to engage after taking off from Henderson. For online co-ops, of course, I had to cut that altitude in order to make the scenarios playable.

You just can't beat a Corsair, though! :)

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The Marines at Henderson could almost always count on Coastwatchers to report Jap air raids while they were still about an hour away. Sometimes the warnings didn't get through, but when they did, the F4Fs could usually be at altitude and bounce the incoming raid from above.

Coastwatchers and Ultra often gave warning of surface ships headed for the 'Canal, as well, but for a long time there wasn't much that could be done about those attacks. The Navy fought a bloody series of night battles with the Japs in the area now known as Iron Bottom Sound and all around Savo Island. The Nips had much more experience at night combat and they had the Long Lance torpedo. US commanders took an unholy amount of time learning how to use radar as an effective tool for night engagements. Eventually, they DID learn and the Japanese tactical and strategic situation began to worsen. The Japanese failure to develop adequate radar equipment hurt them severely, although it's unlikely that even a crash radar development program begun in 1942 would have helped much. Japanese industry was already operating at near maximum when the war started. They were never able to bring modern weapons into play in sufficient numbers to make a measurable difference in their situation.

By 1944 the US Navy and Air Corps were essentially two or three generations ahead of the Japs. All the sons of Nippon had left was fighting spirit. Sadly, they inflicted severe casualties before the end. Even more sad, their cultural inability to face reality and end the war cost them millions of young men.

OG

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Yep Jim, with warning, the Wildcats could stuggle up to altitude in time. Very efficient early-warning system. Couldn't hardly miss the Japanese, boring down the Slot.

Bit of a problem with the Guadalcanal map in IL2 being kinda short on space, so you had to finesse that when building missions (I don't do airstarts). Had to place the Japanese way on the edge of the map, have 'em circle or zigzag -- never could make 'em fly slow enough without stalling. Then there was the problem of keeping that pretty vee-of-vees formation during all those gyrations. Gave me plenty of fits, I can tell you.

Well, you could just spawn 'em later in the mission, but that always caused a slowdown in the system when all the new planes appeared, tipping off players that something was coming and suspending immersion. Not a best-practice.

Now, after I built the campaign, the new player-built Slot map came along, and that would have been a Godsend. Maybe someday I'll redo everything with a proper Slot map. The IL2 mod scene has become so factured, though, I'm not sure what standard to build.

I do love that campaign, though. Put a whole lot of time into it. Building missions in IL2 is something I could do all day.

It's still up at Mission 4 Today, more than 2,000 downloads over the past seven years:
http://www.mission4today.com/index.php?name=Downloads&file=details&id=1332

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It is a shame that the IL-2 community splintered. It was all good for a while, but last I checked, which has been a while, the Ultra Mod group was still struggling with a beta of their version 3 mod pack. Oleg and company changed a number of things with the 4.10 version of the sim and I understand that the changes broke many of the mods. Oh, well, I have not messed with IL-2 in a few years and I have no intention of starting again.

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