Operation Dora and the Bavarian Typhoon — the Bf 108 Taifun, clandestine
Operation Dora occurred in early 1944, during World War II, and was an effort by the Germans to insert personnel to observe British air supply efforts in West Africa, Fort Lamy (Chad) and Cairo — information needed to protect Axis efforts in the eastern Mediterranean Sea. The desert regions of North Africa seemed criss-crossed at the time by Major Bagnold’s famed “Desert Rats” (formally the Long Range Desert Group, or LRDG) whether behind enemy lines or not — Italians and Germans were also patrolling as well but not with the same fantastic results won by the Desert Rats. Ralph Alger Bagnold was famous in the prewar years as a desert explorer and scientist (his observations and calculations are used today by NASA on the Mars rover missions) and he was part of a club which searched for many years for a lost oasis named, Zerzura.
Count Lazlo Almsay was also part of this gentleman’s club but served the Axis (the sole member to do so, though he was from Hungary) during World War II and brought his considerable knowledge of desert exploration and land navigation to bear for Operation Dora. Kampfgeschwader 200 (KG 200, the special operations branch of the Luftwaffe) was charged with inserting personnel into Libya from Greece and then a further 1750 miles (2800km) from landfall westward across Africa. The Bf 108 Taifun (Typhoon) had demonstrated reliability as well as long range during international air races in the prewar years, but even its long legs could not carry it the distance required. Additionally, though it had seating for four it would not carry sufficient cargo to build and supply covert air strips which were to be hidden in the vast desert spaces of northern Africa. KG 200 planned to use a captured B-17 Flying Fortress for supply and with that aspect of the challenge solved went to work on the problem of getting an advanced party into place.
The solution arrived at was no less than a bit of daring as well as superb airmanship — the range of a Bf 108 (loaded with fuel, a pilot, a navigator and two soldiers as well as equipment) would be greatly extended by having it under aerial tow behind a Heinkel He 111 while flying from Greece across the Mediterranean Sea to the coast along the Gulf of Sirte. Once making landfall, the Bf 108 pilot started its engine and began a flight leg utilizing only basic navigation skills first to an abandoned airstrip previously built by Italians in Libya, then successively westward. The long flight was accomplished without autopilot and required pinpoint navigation using dead reckoning — all in hostile air space. A daring mission by anyone’s measure. The operation was logistically a success but Operation Dora was undone when an Axis agent was discovered in an Allied bar smoking a brand of cigarette unavailable in the area — sharp eyes were about — and, under interrogation he made the Allies aware of Operation Dora.
Designed and produced by Bayerische Flugzeugwerke (Bavarian Aircraft Works or Bf) — later to be known as Messerschmitt — in the late 1930 the Taifun (Typhoon) is a sleek four seat trainer and liaison aircraft with a few flying still flying in the current day. This aircraft was photographed at an airshow in the late 1970s or early 1980s and was owned by author Martin Caidin at the time.
The material regarding Operation Dora was found in this well written book — The Hunt for Zerzura: the lost oasis and the Desert War, Saul Kelly, 2002, ISBN 0-7195-61671, 302 pp.
Skymaster Walkaround in Ft. Worth’s Best Kept Secret
Ft. Worth’s best kept secret is the Veterans Memorial Air Park which is actually a museum 3-fer (use the search window to find the posts describing the museums and the aircraft on exhibit). Many Forward Air Control (FAC) aircraft are present and this is the museum for FACs :)
Kamikaze: To Die for the Emperor
War File: Kamikaze: To Die for the Emperor, 2008, DVD 53 minutes
This is an entertaining DVD rich in historical footage and wonderfully narrated. Though it is not recommended as a primary reference source due to its uneven coverage of World War II Japan’s Special Attack Units — known as Kamikaze.
Bill Gordon, who is an expert in the field and authors the web site 神風 Kamikaze Images, has written a much better review than can be written in this post. The review can be read here and should be since, though the publishing date on the DVD is much more recent, it is the same product.
Can Project Robin’s Canberra be saved?
28º 31′ 09″ N / 80º 47′ 38″ W
Project Robin was a series of Cold War reconnaissance missions flown by the RAF, in the early 1950s, until the introduction by the USAF of the Lockheed U-2. The subject aircraft of these images may have been a Project Robin participant and is the Canberra of British service with a side-by-side cockpit — not the tandem arrangement of the U.S. Air Force version.
This Canberra is now owned by the Valiant Air Command Warbird Museum in Titusville FL (there are many posts regarding this museum) and due to be restored. One of the guides at the museum is a USAF veteran Canberra pilot and he mentioned this significant nugget of the Canberra’s take-off profile. The two powerful and widely separated engines would make for highly adverse yaw should an engine fail. Single engine minimum airspeed control is 160 knots (296kph) yet the aircraft would break ground at 140 knots (259kph) — the respectful pilot would break ground then fly level until 160 knots had been attained — then commence the climb out.
Newby Brantly’s B-2B helicopter classic
Designed by Newby Brantly with an all metal enclosed fuselage, metal rotors and a sleek look, even for the 1950s when this helicopter first flew, the B-2B is a helicopter design classic.
Howard Aircraft DGA-15P — aircraft of the wealthy
Benny Howard, of Howard Aircraft Corp., designed what became a coveted aircraft in the late 1930s and early 1940s. The wooden wing and steel tube fabric covered fuselage were the standards of the day but the aircraft set itself apart with its wide and deep fuselage, carrying as many as five passenger in great comfort (spaciousness), at airliner speeds of the day. This was the aircraft for the wealthy and the famous, an executive transport.