For those you who have used the Internet awhile, you probably heard the story decades ago. Probably in the early 90s. The interesting thing about this is that when it was revealed it was a mystery solved after 47 years.
In the darkness of a December 20, 1943 morning in an English side Quonset hut, an orderly shined a light into the face of Lt Charles “Charlie” Brown to tell him that it was time to get up and attend the briefing.
Members of the 379th Bomb Group of the mighty 8th Army Air Force were to receive their briefing for that day’s bombing raid.
They were to bomb the Focke-wulf aircraft factory on the Northern German coast at Bremen.
They were told to expect heavy flak and hundreds of fighters in opposition. The CO giving the briefing, Col “Mo” Preston, would be leading the massive formation. He was no commander who led from the desk.
Although LT Brown and his crew had trained together and had 100s of hours stateside in the Flying Fortress, this would be his first bombing mission with that crew. After 100s of hours, the crew became as a family.
At Bremen during that same hour, a German Luftwaffe Leutnant, Franz Stigler, was most likely sleeping. They wouldn’t know about the raid until hours later. The B-17 crews deliberately had no radio communication once they started up on the tarmac.
It’s hard for me as a born and bred, high speed, low drag, strike fighter guy to admit this, but if I was a ground pounder? In a pinch? In a relatively permissive surface-to-air threat environment? I maybe wouldn’t want a Hornet on call. I’d maybe ask for an AC-130, if one was available.
I mean, a 2000 pound bomb leaves an impression, no doubt about it. A couple of them even more so. But one or two big thumps, bad guys die in clumps, but then the air goes home.
The R.A.F. have been utterly, utterly useless,’’ Maj. Loden was quoted as saying, referring to two instances involving Harrier warplanes during close ground combat.
“A female Harrier pilot ‘couldn’t identify the target,’ fired two phosphorous rockets that just missed our own compound so that we thought they were incoming RPG’s, and then strafed our perimeter, missing the enemy by 200 meters,’’ he wrote, according to British news reports. RPG stands for rocket-propelled grenade.
In contrast to Britain’s Royal Air Force, Maj. Loden said, the United States Air Force had been “fantastic.’’
As you might suspect, that comparison went over like a fart in church up-echelon. Hard to make any general conclusions from one man’s specific observations, but it’s interesting how in this fight, the voices of the troops – for better or worse – are much more likely to pass through the filters, military, civil, media and that once would have held them in check.
Last year, I screened The Cold Blue, which was an amazing film. In WW2, 5 famous Hollywood directors, William Wyler, John Huston, John Ford, George Stevens, and Frank Capra went into harm’s way with small film crews and documented the war. John Ford, for example shot – I believe- the only footage of Midway as it was being attacked.
I’m in danger of swaying into this fascinating story, but I will say one thing. The war affected them all, and it can be reflected in their post war work. George Stevens, for example, having seen so much death and destruction in Europe, in making Shane, thought gunfire and being shot should be portrayed realistically, a first for a Hollywood Western.
During my time in the Army, I had 2 stations. The first, I was assigned to and the 2nd, I requested a transfer.
My first station was a radar station on a hill overlooking Ramstein AFB, near Landstuhl. You have probably heard of Landstuhl from time to time, as it contains the Army’s – if not main hospital in Europe, certainly one of the top hospitals.
JET PILOT (1957) produced by Howard Hughes was shot between 1949-1951. Beautiful aerial cinematography in this Cold War film. The US Air Force allowed the use of: F-86 / B-36B / F-94A / EB50A / T-33A and the Bell X-1 that first broke the sound barrier. Shot on Kodak’s first color negative film 5247.
The US Marines embarked aboard an amphibious ready group us a “rapid response planning process”, or R2P2 to prepare for each of the 22 roles and missions that a Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable) is expected to be able to accomplish. They can go from warning order to execution using a cookbook process shaped by real-time intel in three hours. Watching the unit leaders go through a confirmation brief with the MEU commander prior to execution is an amazingly detailed experience – the first time.