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 Hesse said: to study history means submitting to chaos and nevertheless retaining faith in order and meaning.
It was perhaps apt that France was selected as the linchpin upon which the Allied liberation of Western Europe during World War II would hinge. Notwithstanding its geographic importance, France was the cradle of European democracy - a hallmark, which in bitter irony, had suffered subjugation by a totalitarian state.
The aim of the Normandy landings on June 6, 1944 was to give the Allies a foothold striking into Nazi tyranny and so, the liberal democratic war machinery of the Allied coalition took on a purity of purpose unmatched in the annals of history. Other military operations have since tried to recapture this aura of the “good fight." But were the events in Normandy really so black and white?
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 of the Second World War.
In additions to legions of Britons, it ranks swelled with Australians, New Zealanders, Canadians, Indians, South Africans, Free Poles, French and Czechoslovaks, Caribbean islanders, British-Chinese and even Americans.
This project, whose ambitious goals were to catalogue the history of all 533-odd squadrons formed by the RAF during the war, including those which came under the operational control of the RAF, started in 2001. Cataloging the aircraft types used and bases was a prerequisite but assembling a list of commanders and unit aces proved more challenging. Soon, it had become a Frankenstein's monster running into 1,219 A4-size pages, complete with aircraft art. Clearly, I had gone insane.
I thought I should put this 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. Coming Soon