A Window to the Past
Here, we look at some of the seminal campaigns of my area of expertise: the Second World War. As Hermann Hesses would say: To study history means submitting to chaos and nevertheless retaining faith in order and meaning.
The Battle for Normandy
Beach by Beach, hedge by hedge, man to man, the battle of Normandy entered lore as one of the greatest campaigns in the history of the human race, a classic struggle of good versus evil. But was it really so black and white? Some of what happened in those green fields of Normandy nearly three generations ago in 1944 is sheathed in myth and held in such awe that it is danger of becoming a fable. Here is the explosive story of what really happened over 70 years ago.
With the distinction of being the oldest air force in the world, the British Royal Air Force (RAF) was also the most diverse air combat formation during the war.
From a human point of view, it was a fascinating force, being made up of Australians, New Zealanders, Canadians, Indians, South Africans, Free Poles, French and Czechoslovaks, Caribbean islanders, British-Chinese and even Americans.
This project started nearly 15 years ago, as part of some vague ambition to assemble a comprehensive database of all 533 squadrons in the RAF which existed at various points during the war, down to a list of commanders and unit aces. It soon became a Frankenstein's monster running into 1,219 A4-size pages, complete with aircraft art. Clearly, I had gone insane.
I might as well now put all that stuff online.
Striking the Reich's Heart
On October 14, 1943, a discomfiting message was transmitted to sixteen American bomber groups in southeastern England: “This air operation today is the most important air operation yet conducted in the war. The target must be destroyed. It is of vital importance to the enemy.”
The bomber crews knew that a deep raid meant heavy casualties. At one briefing, the commanding officer of a group attempted to lighten the mood of his men. “It’s a tough job,” he said, “but I known you can do it. Good luck, good hunting and good bombing.”
“And goodbye!” a forlorn gunner added from the rear.
By the summer of 1943, a fierce battle was raging over the skies of Europe. A battle fought by neophyte American airmen against seasoned German fliers already hardened by two years of war. The American aim bordered on hubris: to prove that the war could be won by air power alone. (181 pages, 101k words) Coming Soon