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Thursday, 15 December 2011


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Absolutely fascinating stuff. Reading it beats working, that's for sure...

A couple of points. The most poignant bit here is the plight of the torpedo plane crews. Winning the battle by losing the battle.

A crucial battle? Well, I will trot out my usual cynical line here. All battles are crucial for those participating, but while the Americans could keep Oppenheimer out of harm's way, and maintain their steel production, the long-term result was always certain. Different amounts of bloodshed, but never any chance of us speaking Japanese.

Interesting bit about the loss of experienced aircrews. I heard that during WW2 the RAF made a conscious decision to take experienced air aces out of operational duty and use them for training. So fewer brilliant pilots, but more serviceable pilots in the front line. The Luftwaffe did the opposite, being hung up on the myth of the Red Baron, etc. Any thoughts on this? A fascinating dilemma, a bit like the "sharpening the saw" analogy that gets trotted out in business courses.

'W', you are absolutely right that when seen from a geo-political viewpoint the Japanese were mad to take on the USA at all because, to use an analogy I have used before, it was the equivalent of poking a sleeping giant in the eye with a sharp stick. In fact I wonder what the USA would have done if the Japs had simply attacked the Dutch and the Brits in their possessions. Whilst FDR was, more or less, up for it, his public were still dragging their feet. And, of course, as you well know, the A-bomb was but a gleam in the eye in 1942.

Your point concerning the RAF bomber crews is true to a point but part of the reason for giving them a break was that casualty rates in Bomber Command were only exceeded by the German submarine crews. In other words, if you made it through your 30 sorties (or whatever it was) then you were a very, very lucky man and you knew it from the number of missing faces around the mess at night!

Actually, just recently I heard a new criticism of Bomber Command, well, new to me, anyway. It was suggested that instead of investing all that money into huge metal bombers with very large crews (7) such that the casualty rates were needlessly enormous, they should have concentrated on the Mosquito which was made of wood and carried a crew of two. It was very fast and very agile and proved several times that it could conduct pin-point bombing with considerable accuracy, as opposed to the 'carpet' bombing of the large, lumbering Lancasters.

Thanks for your response, DD.

I had never actually thought about the Japanese having the sense to attack only us and the flatlanders, but I'm very glad on reflection that they were not smart enough. The spectre of the Yamato nosing into the Suez canal would have put the wind up Monty!

The Mosquito point is interesting. I have a soft spot for them, as my mum made them at the De Havilland works in Hertfordshire. Little government help, just a patriotic businessman. There is some brilliant footage of a squadron of them pitching bombs through some bad people's windows in Amsterdam.

My dad volunteered to be a gunner on Lancasters. It was what you did if you were gung-ho but had no better than elementary education maths. They showed him and his fellow volunteers a film taken inside a bomber coming under attack: tracers coming through the fuselage, equipment smashed to buggery, and you in a perspex dome too small for you and your parachute. Apparently enemy fighters came past too fast to react to, let alone hit. He decided to "un-vokunteer", and drove a truck for the duration...

One of my uncles, a wireless operator in a Lancaster, planned to volunteer to be a rear gunner. My mother, his sister, asked my father to put a stop to it. So he asked uncle why he planned to do it. "For the extra pay". "Right", said my father, "I'll give you the extra money myself; now just you keep your sister happy and give up this mad idea." And lo, it was so.

P.S. Midway was like a game of soccer. Being a low-scoring game, soccer between two sides that are even approximately well-matched will often be settled by luck.

We've said it beofore, we'll say it again; the Japanese are bright folk, but getting into a fight with every single neighbour (with the possible exception of Siam and Vichy) was bonkers. If they'd cut their losses in China, they'd have ended up as a very substantial player in the far east and not a recipient for atomic bombs.

'W' and 'DM', your respective relatives missed the chance to join celebrity company, dear-darling Terence Rattigan was an air-gunner - I don't suppose they minded!

'H', indeed, theirs was an exceedingly eccentric society before the war what with the Emperor also being a God-head. One of the problems was that the army became ever more influential, not so much the senior officers, but the middle-rankers, the majors, colonels and so forth, hot-heads most of them without a political strategic brain in their bodies. Oddly enough, the God-head bit excepted, they do remind me of Wilhemine Germany.

**NOTE** For anyone looking for an excellent book on the subject as seen from the Japanese viewpoint, use 'abebooks' and try and find a copy of "Midway" by Mitsuo Fuchida & Masatake Okumiya. Fuchida was the pilot who lead in the first attack force against Pearl Harbour. It is an extremely honest book in which Japanese errors are faced head on. He sums up, thus: "As a consequence of my studies, I am firmly convinced that the Pacific War was started by men who did not understand the sea, and fought by men who did not understand the air."

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