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Blitzkrieg: Myth, Reality, and Hitler’s Lightning War: France 1940

12 December 2017

Blitzkrieg: Myth, Reality, and Hitler’s Lightning War: France 1940, Lloyd Clark, 2016, ISBN 978-0-8021-2721-1, 457 pp.

Blitzkrieg: Myth, Reality, and Hitler’s Lightning War: France 1940 by Lloyd Clark

Many books describe the advent of modern combined arms combat but few if any cover the original blitzkrieg as objectively and insightfully as Lloyd Clark’s Blitzkrieg.

Clark has taught the subject for a quarter century at university level as well as interviewing combatants and civilians for the last several years. His depth of knowledge and comprehension may be unsurpassed.

So. What can be learned from this book at the end of the day that we have not learned elsewhere? Although France, the Netherlands and Belgium were captured in less than six weeks this blitzkrieg was more closely run  than first appearances and the too many simplistic historical summations read elsewhere

Tanks. All have heard of the infamous panzers but half were Panzer I and Panzer II tanks which were a bit more than armored cars of small armament, with the Panzer III and Panzer IV not much more heavily armed. So, it wasn’t about the panzers but about their combat training, tactics, mobility and more importantly radio communication capability. Like radar would occur later, radio communication at the individual tactical unit was revolutionary and the Germans used it first as well as best. Often the superiority of the French Char B1 tank cost the panzers dearly but there were just too few to be strategically influential.

Aircraft. All have heard of the Luftwaffe and the accuracy of the Stuka. Wehrmacht generals knew from the invasion of Poland that Stukas were accurate enough but not pinpoint often enough, as often inferred by others. They were however excellent in demoralizing opposing forces at the point of contact at the most decisive moment—and this was tactically invaluable.

Dunkirk. All have heard of Dunkirk. Clark interestingly portrays the stop order by Hitler not as a strategic error but as a power play to place his stamp of authority over the Wehrmacht general staff—which was a continuing fight since before the invasion. This concept is revealing and sensical in the context explained so well by Clark as with the prosecution of further invasion to the south including Paris.

Clark also clears up what worked and did not work with the French forces, the British Expeditionary Force (BEF), the Royal Air Force, the Belgians and the Netherlands forces. There is much to it but suffice to say that the French prepared well for another invasion á lá World War I including the agreement with Belgium to have their land used as a delaying action—as well as poor military governmental support and paperwork making enacting of orders taking days to enact. There were Allied bright spots of individual heroism. There were tantalizing opportunities to severely interrupt  the onslaught of this Blitzkrieg, a few missed opportunities by only minutes which Clark writes of in riveting fashion.

Intriguingly Clark also describes the heartless decision by Mussolini to sacrifice thousands of his troops so he could sit at the surrender of France with pride—and how his decision produced laughable shame, a precursor to future military expeditions by Italy in WW II. importantly, how civilians reacted to invasion of their country is also described well by Clark and is as important to understand as any strategies implemented by general staff. Understanding the combatants as well as generals is described by Clark nicely so the reader can vicariously experience their experiences as well as decisions in the context of the time.

Clark also describes well what this new way of warfare was and was not in its crucible formation days of the invasions of Poland, France, Belgium and the Netherlands—and how it evolved along the way by supporters and opposed by conservatives in the Wehrmacht. This book is one to get for study of aviation’s coming importance as for strategic historians. Rich in maps, images and resources—not to mention Clark’s sage authorship—this book is enlightening.

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Dornier Do J Wal Mystery solved!

11 December 2017

Spain’s “Plus Ultra” on its historic flight across the South Atlantic—San Diego Air and Space Museum archive

Thanks to Jesus Alonso Millan the story of this Dornier Do J Wal has been brought to light. Registry letters appear to have changed since this photo was taken and the aircraft of of Spanish registry and a very special aircraft it is. Specifically, she is the Plus Ultra and was flown on an early crossing of the South Atlantic (Palos de Moguer to Buenos Aires) in 1926 by Spain. Here is a link describing the event and the aircraft. Many thanks Jesus.

Night Fire

10 December 2017

 

A U.S. Marine Corps UH-1Y Venom strafes a practice target (note the ricochets)—U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Danny Gonzalez

Marine Flight

9 December 2017

 

USMC KC-130 Hercules crew in flight—USMC image

A brace of USMC KC-130s Hercules tankers—USMC image

A KC-130J Hercules cruising with Marine Aerial Refueler Transport Squadron 252 cruising along—USMC image/Lance Cpl Andrea Cleopatra Dickerson

An MV-22B Osprey with the “Blue Knights,” soars over Afghanistan—USMC image

An AH-1W Cobra with Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 167 flies toward Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune—USMC photo/Lance Cpl. Manuel Estrada

Sikorsky CH-53K King Stallion test flying near West Palm Beach FL—USMC image

 

USMC Capt. John Beattie pilots an AV-8B Harrier II—USMC image/Lance Cpl Christian Cachola

Capt. Jonathan Lewenthal and Capt. Eric Scheibe, AV-8B Harrier pilots, over southern Helmand province, Afghanistan—USMC image/Cpl Gregory Moore

An AV-8B Harrier flies in position for aerial refueling training—USMC image/Gunnery Sgt Chad R. Kiehl

USMC Grumman EA-6B Prowler—USMC image/Cpl. N.W. Huertas

Giving

6 December 2017

 

Since 1947, the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve Toys for Tots Program has distributed more than 452 million toys to more than 209 million children in need earning the Marine Corps the title of unchallenged leader looking after less fortunate children at Christmas. It is easy to donate, just visit http://www.toysfortots.org/donate/Default.aspx—U.S. Marine Corps photo by SSgt Mark Fayloga

Howard’s Whirlybirds: Howard Hughes’ Amazing Pioneering Helicopter Exploits

5 December 2017

Howard’s Whirlybirds: Howard Hughes’ Amazing Pioneering Helicopter Exploits, Donald, J. Porter, 2013, ISBNB 978-1-78155-089-2

Howard’s Whirlybirds: Howard Hughes’ Amazing Pioneering Helicopter Exploits by Donald, J. Porter (front cover)

This is the book to understand the company and its innovations, warts and all as the author states. Porter lives up to the promise has he writes insightfully of the designs and, importantly the people behind the designs—from the engineers to the mechanic who peened out a bearing race to allow a flight test to go forward.

Porter delivers on that primes well and openly pens that this is not the book to explain the detailed history of any particular helicopter. No, this book is to understand  the company and its troubles with the military as well as Congress—always delivering innovative helicopter designs but not truly financially successful until the AH-64 Apache. The description of the XH-17, its design and piloting, was eye-opening with its massive rotor disk of merely two blades rotating and a layed back 88 rpm. Reading of the OH-6 Cayuse was a joy due to its success with pilots due to its performance—finally, an explanation of how the OH-58 Kiowa was able to win in a fly off competition, though it suffers today from the same drawbacks. Of course, the AH-64 Apache is addressed well as is its historical impacts.

Porter has delivered a book needed to understand both Hughes Aircraft helicopters as well as a biography of the company itself—warts and all as promised. Promise kept.

Howard’s Whirlybirds: Howard Hughes’ Amazing Pioneering Helicopter Exploits by Donald, J. Porter (back cover)

XH-17 Flying Crane

4 December 2017

This experimental helicopter testing platform was a giant and it was innovative. It was also the first helicopter design of the Hughes Aircraft Division. Hughes Aircraft was known for changing paradigms and the XH-17 was a large paradigm change. Meant to be a heavy lifter, as its name implies, it had only two rotor blades with each driven by a compressed air rotor tip jet. The rotor system was spectacular in that its rpm was only 88 so that the blades rotated mimicked a ceiling fan rather than a floor fan—with each blade nearly a foot thick in chord. The tail rotor was small since the rotor tip jets did not produce much torque. Alas, the power system was tremendously loud as well as hugely inefficient. Unfortunately it was scrapped instead of preserved as the largest two bladed rotor helicopter flown.

Hughes XH-17, sans tail rotor and boom, being examined—San Diego Air and Space Museum archive

Hughes XH-17, flight and load ready—San Diego Air and Space Museum archive

Hughes XH-17 lifts a military van (note the small tail rotor)—San Diego Air and Space Museum archive

Hughes XH-17 without tail rotor boom under tow—San Diego Air and Space Museum archive

Hughes XH-17 poised for flight—San Diego Air and Space Museum archive

Hughes XH-17 in flight with cargo—San Diego Air and Space Museum archive

Hughes XH-17 delivering noise and debris with its huge rotor disk diameter of nearly 130 feet—San Diego Air and Space Museum archive