B-17G ‘Wee Willie’ shot down in a sortie over a marshalling yard in Stendal, Germany. Of the crew of 9 only the pilot survived; ca. April 8th, 1945
Wee Willie was shot down just 31 days before the end of the Second World a in Europe, and was the second to last B-17 lost by the 91st Bomb Group before the end of the war. The crash was described as follows by an eyewitnesses:
“We were flying over the target at 20,500 feet [6,248 meters] altitude when I observed aircraft B-17G, 42-31333 to receive a direct flak hit approximately between the bomb bay and #2 engine. The aircraft immediately started into a vertical dive. The fuselage was on fire and when it had dropped approximately 5,000 feet [1,524 meters] the left wing fell off. It continued down and when the fuselage was about 3,000 feet [914.4 meters] from the ground it exploded and then exploded again when it hit the ground. I saw no crew member leave the aircraft or parachutes open.”
The pilot managed to escape and spend the rest of the war as POW.
21 year-old bombardier Lt. Joseph Heller (future author of ‘Catch-22’) in the nose of a B-25; ca. 1944
“Yossarian was a lead bombardier who had been demoted because he no longer gave a damn whether he missed or not. He had decided to live forever or die in the attempt, and his only mission each time he went up was to come down alive.”
Today in 1918, Manfred von Richtofen, World War I’s greatest flying ace, was shot down in his Red Fokker Triplane by a single bullet through his heart. Here is the Red Baron in a sweater in happier times; ca. 1917
He landed in enemy territory, and the RAF gave him a funeral with full military honors, befitting a legendary military aviator such as himself. It’s strange how a sense of professional respect can transcend the hatred of enemies, especially in the case of an enemy who had personally killed so many RAF pilots.
He was a dangerous enemy, but he was truly admired.
Sailors frantically jump overboard a sinking HMS Prince of Wales minutes after it was struck by Japanese bombers during the Battle off Malaya; December 10th, 1941.
835 sailors were lost and these were the first 2 battleships ever lost on the open sea solely through the use of air power.
The sinking of Prince of Wales and Repulse was a Second World Warnaval engagement that took place north of Singapore, off the east coast of Malaya, nearKuantan, Pahang, where the British Royal NavybattleshipHMS Prince of Wales and battlecruiserHMS Repulse were sunk by land-based bombers and torpedo bombers of the Imperial Japanese Navy on 10 December 1941. In Japanese, the engagement was referred to as the Naval Battle off Malaya.
The objective of Force Z, which consisted of one battleship, one battlecruiser and four destroyers, was to intercept the Japanese invasion fleet north of Malaya. However, the task force sailed without any air support, which had been declined by Admiral Sir Tom Phillips, the commander of Force Z, in favour of maintaining radio silence. Although the British had a close encounter with Japanese heavy surface units, the force failed to find and destroy the main convoy. On their return to Singapore they were attacked in open waters and sunk by long-range medium bombers.
Along with the attack on Pearl Harbor only a few days earlier, the Malaya engagement illustrated the effectiveness of aerial attacks against even the heaviest of naval assets if they were not protected by air cover, and led the Allies to place importance on their aircraft carriers over battleships. The sinking of the two ships severely weakened the Eastern Fleet in Singapore, and the Japanese invasion fleet was only engaged by submarines until the Battle off Endau on 27 January 1942. (Source)
After the battle a Japanese pilot flew over where the ships had been sunk and dropped two wreaths. One was for the Japanese pilots who died and the other was, according to the pilot, a mark of respect from his Air Corps to all ratings from Repulse and Prince of Wales that had perished in defence of their ships
These reminders are important for future generations (like us) to not take peace for granted, and to remember that it’s easy to clamor for war if it’s someone else’s house and nation that’s about to get bombed, but when the tables are turned and the bomb whizz over your head, this mechanized mass murder, or whatever watered down PC name war-hungry politicians may give it, is a whole ‘nother beast.