August 5, 2011 Photo of the Day
Mulberry Artificial Harbors - Normandy
Completed Mulberry harbor - WWII Normandy. September 1944. A - breakwater composed of concrete Phoenixes and blockship Gooseberry. B - Spud pier for unloading. C - floating whale roadways. British government photo.
By June of 1943, nearly a year after the disastrous raid on Dieppe by the British, Europe was still firmly in German hands along with all its ports. Although the failure at Dieppe showed that a port could not be easily captured, a deep port was essential if the Allies were to begin their assault on the French coast.
The calm waters of a harbor were necessary to allow a continuous supply of troops and equipment to a newly opened front which was being planned as Operation Overlord.
Difficulties of a Captured Harbor
The choices available to the Allies for obtaining a harbor included an attempt to capture a port or build their own. The ports at Cherbourg and Le Havre were closest to England but also the most heavily defended. It was realized that not only heavy losses could be expected, but if the port could be taken, it would not be particularly operational for some time due to damage incurred during the battle. Sunken ships would need to be cleared out and harbor repairs, or new construction carried out. It was felt that this could take many weeks to accomplish, all while trying to hold the port without a ready means to receive troops and supplies.
Artificial Harbors: Mulberry A and B
Code named Mulberry, a daring plan was put into action. It included two prefabricated harbors, each containing breakwater, piers and roadways all of which would be built in England. These components would then be towed across the English Channel and set up at two locations, following the initial attack on the Germans at Normandy. The American Mulberry A harbor would be constructed on Omaha Beach, and the British Mulberry B on Gold Beach. Plans and construction prior to D-Day, would be kept in utmost secrecy in order to gain the element of surprise. It was initially estimated that an artificial harbor could support 12,000 tons of supplies and 2,500 vehicles per day once it was in operation.1
1John P. Taylor, The Prefabricated Port of Arromanches — Mulberry B. London: Shipbuilding and Shipping Record, 1945. p.5.
July 5, 2011
We were fortunate to see many World War II vehicles from the Gabarino WWII Military Museum out for the 4th of July parade in Corte Madera, CA . I took photos and I will be putting them up on this home page as Photo of the Day, and later will put them in the museum section of the website.
April 10, 2011
We have started to rework the Normandy section starting with the specialized vehicles and hope to be putting up new info and photos every few days.
February 14, 2011
The Naval Aviation Centennial was this past Saturday on North Island in San Diego and we were fortunate to be able to attend. We took photos of the static displays and some video of the flybys during the Parade of Flight. We hope to be putting these items up soon.
~ Jon & Cindy
October 17, 2010
We have started to put up new content on the site every day or two. This will either be in the form of a new page, or a new, more comprehensive article for an old page.
~ Jon & Cindy
April 8, 2010
Comparison of American and German tanks
and tank destroyer philosophies
A tank is a tracked vehicle with armor and at least some of the weapons located in a turret that can rotate without the entire tank being moved into the direction of fire. The American philosophy for tanks was that they were to be used to exploit a breakthrough accomplished by the infantry. Once behind enemy lines the tanks would would move quickly and strike deeply to attack communication and command centers; reserve supplies, and reserve troops in transit.
American Tank destroyers
In contrast, the American tank destroyers were intended to counter enemy tank attacks. The overriding philosophy was to 'shoot and scoot'. Consequently these American tank destroyers had large engines, powerful guns and very thin armor. These tank destroyers typically lacked an enclosed turret, leaving them very vulnerable to enemy infantry, and artillery attacks.
The German tank philosophy changed over the course of the war. In the early stages of the war, the philosophy was to have two different types of tanks. One type was an infantry tank that fired a low velocity high explosive shell, useful for attacking enemy pillboxes and fortifications. The second type was the battle tank that shot a high velocity armor piercing round that was intended to engage enemy tanks. What distinguished the German army from its opponents was that both infantry and battle tanks were high speed tanks that were formed into armored divisions.
German tank destroyers
The recognition of the need for tank destroyers in the German army only came after the German army encountered superior Soviet T-34s and KV-1 tanks. The initial tank destroyers were made by modifying smaller Czech tanks and obsolete German tanks to carry captured Soviet anti-tank guns. As the war progressed, the need for a more advanced German tank destroyer became evident. The tank destroyers required more powerful guns, thicker armor, and a lower silhouette to deal with the newer Soviet tanks. Consequently, Panzer IIIs, Panzer IVs, Panthers, and finally Tiger tanks were each successively converted into tanks destroyers. With their heavy armor, and powerful guns, German tank destroyers were intended to stand and fight it out with opposing tanks.
August 5, 2009
The P-51 Mustang was actually built at the request of the British who were not allowed to buy to enough Curtiss P-40 Warhawk fighters. Curtiss was a small American company and could only make so many. And so the British went to North American Aviation and asked them to make them some P-40 Warhawks. North American Aviation said they could build the British the P-51 Mustang instead, which they were designing. The British were desperate and under lend-lease they were allowed to buy more than they could afford. They just had to get companies to produce them. So they agreed, and started ordering the P-51 Mustang.
When the British got a hold of the P-51 Mustang, they decided it was a very good low and mid level fighter, but wasn't as good as they had hoped. It only had a single stage super charger so it was not a very good high altitude fighter. Altitude is always an advantage because if you have the altitude you also have speed because you can always go downhill to attack your opponent as soon as you see him.
After the British started buying the P-51 Mustang they had their engineers look at them and were told that if the British Rolls Royce engine were put into this airplane it would be even better. And so they turned around to North American Aviation and asked them to put the Merlin engine into the Mustang - the Merlin was the Rolls Royce engine that Packard was making in the United States under license. So instead of calling them Rolls Royces they called them Merlins. And so they started putting the Rolls Royce designed engines into the P-51 Mustang and then it became an even better fighter.
August 4, 2009
Scale model teaching collection
Right now I'm building a model of a Grumman Wildcat, which is an American fighter plane. The goal for my World War II collection is to have over 100 models in 1/32 scale and at present I have 49. Currently I have mostly tanks - American, British, and German. As for aircraft, I have American, German, Italian, and Japanese planes. I do have some German trucks and an American jeep, but I don't have any ships yet as I still have to start that category. Hardly anyone makes ships in 1/32nd scale and the ones that are made are big and expensive.
21st Century toys had a tendency (especially with the model airplanes), to make one airplane and then paint then for different pilots and different squadrons. Even different units doing the same job in the same area were painted differently so that when they were in the air they could divide up into their units. So that's why you see this funny combination of drab camouflage colors with bright markings.
But if you collect one of each, rather than just a big army of them, then there's a separate story that goes with each one and so it becomes what I call a teaching collection. When I first planned out the collection I wrote down one of each model. But with the Focke-Wulf 190, there was a fighter version, a version that was converted into a bomber, and then there was a later version that had more advances incorporated so that it was a high altitude fighter. So I wound up with 3 Focke-Wulf 190s. I have 2 Messerschmitt 109s - a 109 E and a 109 G which was a later model. I also wound up with more than one Mustang - a D version and then a C version. But sometimes I collect more than one of the same version if they were in service under different countries. I actually have 3 Mustangs because one of them is painted up in British colors and the other two are in American colors. And that kind of adds to the story also because the Mustang was actually built at the request of the British who were not allowed to buy to enough American Curtiss P-40 fighters.
July 30, 2009
More thoughts on the Swordfish torpedo plane
Loss of the HMS Hood
The Swordfish are famous for the World War II attack on the German battleship Bismarck. The Bismarck went into the North Atlantic to attack British convoys and it was spotted. The British fleet sent big battleships after it and one of them was the battlecruiser Hood which was the newest battle cruiser in the entire British fleet. And on the second round of firing, the Bismarck hit the Hood right dead center, apparently in a place that had some kind of structural weakness and blew up the whole battleship. It sank in about 3 minutes - split it in half and killed most of the crew. That was really demoralizing to the British and so they called in all of the naval elements they could get - some of them as far away as the Mediterranean and all across the North Atlantic to converge and try to catch the Bismarck and sink it.
The weather is bad in the North Atlantic most of the time, especially in the winter and early spring, and they lost the Bismarck again. It had another cruiser that was with it and the Bismarck went one way and the cruiser another. So the Bismarck was almost going to get away. It decided to turn south, and sail all the way around Great Britain and try to make port in southern France. The British fleet spotted it again a couple of days later when it was well south of England and was headed for the French coast.
Swordfish leaving Ark Royal
Torpedo attacks were made by Swordfish leaving from the aircraft-carrier Ark Royal, but at first it didn't look like they were very successful.The Swordfish came in really low, about 50 feet off the surface of the water, heading right at it and dropped torpedoes. The old bi-plane had the torpedo slug under the bottom of it between the wheels. This is the same tactic the Swordfish took in the Battle of Taranto. The planes came in really low and dropped all those torpedoes and sank half the battleships in the Italian navy. There were only two torpedoes that hit the Bismarck. One of them hit right in the middle in an area where there were big steel belts to protect it from torpedo attacks so it did virtually no damage. But the other torpedo caught the Bismarck at the very tail end of the ship.This torpedo blew up on the back end of the Bismarck, permanently jamming the rudder and steering gear. The battleship could only sail in big huge circles about a half mile in diameter so it couldn't get away. The next morning, the whole British fleet found the Bismarck and they sank it.
Later on the Swordfish were taken out of torpedo combat. They tried to attack some of the German cruisers in the English Channel for the dash from France back up to Germany and their whole squadron of Swordfishes were all shot down by the German cruisers. So they pulled them out and used them more for anti-submarine duty after that.
July 26, 2009
I have just finished commentary on World War II British aircraft, ending with the Bristol Beaufighter and Fairey Fulmar. I am currently working on more book reviews and hopefully will soon be writing the text for the French aircraft Morane-Saulnier.
July 25, 2009
Swordfish torpedo plane
Harbor of Narvik
The Swordfish were the first British naval aircraft to sink a German U-boat. They sunk one in the harbor of Narvik during the German invasion of Norway at very early stages of the war (1940).
Italian naval base, Taranto
They were the planes that were used to attack the Italian naval base in Taranto (which is at the heel of boot of Italy). There was a big naval base there. And the Italians had a fleet there with 6 battleships, cruisers, and the Swordfish flew there at night and bombed and torpedoed them. They sunk or heavily damaged 3 of the battleships and a cruiser. The British lost 2 airplanes in the attack for 3 battleships (half the battleships in the Italian navy). So it tipped the balance of fire power back in favor of the British navy in the Mediterranean. That was probably the most spectacular attack.
July 23, 2009
I bought another new model for my collection - a British Spitfire. I already had a Spitfire I/II. The new one is a Mark IX. They look different and have different capabilities and showed up at different times during WWII. The Mark IX had a more powerful engine with four propeller blades instead of three. It had two 20mm Hispano cannons and two 50 caliber machine guns instead of eight 30 caliber machine guns. It also had mounting points on the wings for small bombs so it's a lot different from the first one in that respect. Plus their opponents were more advanced, too. When the first Spitfires - Mark I and Mark II were fighting the Germans they had the Messerschmitt 109 'E' version and by the time they got to the Spitfire IX and all the later ones the Germans were making the F and G versions and they had Focke-Wulf 190s all which were big improvements over ME 109 'E' version. So it was a continual race with both sides putting the latest , most powerful engines into their airplanes and putting bigger, heavier guns into them and making whatever improvements they could. They were trying for increased speed, maneuverability and fire power, anything that could give then an advantage.
July 22, 2009
I've been adding commentary for the pictures on the site. I started with the American aircraft and and am now working on the British aircraft. I just finished text for the Spitfires on Saturday, and Sunday I did the Gloster Meteor. I also did the Short Sunderland, a flying boat, and the Swordfish, a navel bi-plane. Here are some interesting things I learned about the Swordfish:
The Swordfish was nicknamed the 'string-bag'. Most Americans think it was called the 'string-bag' because it's a bi-plane that's held together with all these wires between the struts so it looks like it's held together with string and it's fabric coated like a bag. But when I got to reading about it they say the British didn't mean that at all. This was pre-plastic bags at the grocery store. When they went shopping in England back then, it was real common for housewives to carry big cloth or canvas bags with a string tie at the top. So the Swordfish was called the string-bag because it was authorized to carry more different types of weapons than any other navel aircraft in the British Navy. You could put bombs on it, depth charges, torpedoes, as well as the machine gun bullets. So to the British 'string-bag' meant the shopping bag, into which you could put a whole array of things.
July 20, 2009
In January of 2005, I saw this 21st Century Panzer IV Ausf. D model in 1/32nd scale at Walmart. It was on sale for $9.00 and I thought it was a pretty nice model for that price, so I bought it. I began watching for other 21st Century WWII models at Walmart in 1/32nd scale.
I'd often thought of teaching an extension class in ancient Greek history at the local junior college, using ancient coins to illustrate the class. But when I was honest with myself I had to admit that I would never have the money to purchase the ancient coin collection. But these inexpensive 21st Century models made me think I could teach a history class on WWII and illustrate the class with these models. In the spring of 2005 my wife started taking web design classes part time at the junior college, and in 2008 she suggested that we do a web site on WWII. We searched for domain names, most of which were already taken. Finally we settled on a paraphrase of a comment attributed to Joseph Stalin: Great Britain supplied the time, the United States supplied the money, and Russia supplied the blood and TimeMoneyAndBlood.com was born.
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