No longer a phony, sitting war

78 years ago today Fall Gelb was launched with German forces rolling through the Low Countries and things wrapped up about 6 weeks later with most of France occupied and the remainder under the control of the Vichy government.

AMR 35 light tanks, 1940

AMR 35 light tanks, 1940

Deutsche Truppen in Masstricht

German vehicles and troops in Maastricht, the Netherlands, 10 May 1940

Abandoned H35 light tank on the side of a road, France, May 1940

Abandoned H35 light tank on the side of a road, France, May 1940

German troops with a camouflaged 3.7 cm PaK 36 anti-tank gun in Belgium, May 1940

German troops with a camouflaged 3.7 cm PaK 36 anti-tank gun in Belgium, May 1940

Crashed German Ju 52 aircraft in a field in the Netherlands, May-Jun 1940

Crashed German Ju 52 aircraft in a field in the Netherlands, May-Jun 1940


Cleaning up after WWII

What happens to the detritus left of the fields of battle after a war is rarely touched on in print or on film.  Whether the remains are human or mechanical, something has to be done with them.  wwiiafterwwii has put together an excellent look at how the mechanical remains were disposed of or reused.

Since starting wwiiafterwwii, I receive from time to time suggestions for topics. These are wide-ranging but two in particular seem very popular: WWII weapons in the Vietnam War, which has been touched on several times; and a general question of how the world “cleaned up” WWII battlefields after the war. For the latter, I was surprised at how very little is written about it so perhaps this will be of interest.

One of the reasons WWII battlefields did not remain littered with vehicles for long was that, with the lone exception of the USA, all of the major warring powers made some official level of combat usage of captured enemy arms during WWII. The most formal was Germany’s Beutewaffe (literally, ‘booty’ or ‘loot’ weapon) effort, which encompassed everything from handguns to fighter aircraft with an official code in the Waffenamt system; for example FK-288(r) (the Soviet ZiS-3 anti-tank gun), SIGew-251(a) (the American M1 Garand rifle), and Sd.Kfz 735(i) (the Italian Fiat M13/40 tank). Captured gear was assembled at points called Sammelstelle and then shipped back from the front lines for disposition.

Read the rest of this great article here: Cleaning up after WWII

The P-61, the Beaufighter, and the first air war fought in the dark


The pilot of the P-61 Midnight Mickey prepares for a 1944 mission over Saipan: hunting the enemy in the dark. (NARA)


The British preferred their nation’s Beaufighters (strafing enemy minesweepers in the North Sea in 1944) to the U.S. made Black Widow. (NARA)

Vladimir Pavlecka had a message for his boss, Jack Northrop. It was October 1940, and a U.S. Army Air Corps colonel had summoned Pavlecka, Northrop’s chief of research, to a meeting at Wright Field in Ohio. The engineer was instructed to commit to memory—he could take no notes—specifications for a secret aircraft. This “Night Interceptor Pursuit Airplane” included an unnamed device that could “see and distinguish other airplanes” in total darkness. From the tone of the meeting, Pavlecka concluded that accepting the project wasn’t an option. It was an order.


The Northrop Aircraft Corporation, headquartered in Hawthorne, California, was only a year old, operating principally as a subcontractor for larger aircraft makers, so it seemed an unlikely choice to commission for the development of the world’s first dedicated night fighter. However, established manufacturers—Lockheed, Grumman, Douglas—were already committed beyond their capacity to stocking the nation’s flying arsenal. Also, the military may have gotten wind of something: A month earlier, the British Purchasing Commission had quietly approached Northrop with specs for a proposed night fighter for the Royal Air Force. Having endured nightly hammering from German bombers during the Blitz, the Brits had learned that night fighting required an aircraft with special characteristics: a high ceiling to intercept intruders, extended loiter time to circle a defended zone slowly, and the firepower to take down big bombers before they reached their targets. And perhaps most important, that unnamed device.

In the first world war, darkness had been used to cloak airborne weapons. German Zeppelins, though awkward aerial punching bags by day, hectored England with bombing raids on moonless nights. Gotha biplanes also night-bombed London, inflicting even greater casualties. Though England fought back with searchlight-guided Sopwith Camels and anti-aircraft fire, the memory of high explosives raining out of the darkness was unnerving to the British as they learned that German belligerence and warplane production was ramping up again in the 1930s.

In the United States, where the airspace had never been violated, the ability to fight at night was a low priority. “It involved a handful of military pilots, trained by civilian airline pilots, who used conventional radio aids and standard flight instruments,” recounts Carroll Smith, destined to become the highest scoring night ace in the Pacific, in American Nightfighter Aces of World War 2 by Andrew Thomas and Warren Thompson. “The glaring weakness of this was that few of these pilots were able to fly without visual references to the ground.”

Read the rest here:

via The P-61, the Beaufighter, and the first air war fought in the dark