Thoughts on the military and military activities of a diverse nature. Free-ranging and eclectic.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

The Flying Bomb!

This is coolbert:

"Harry [Truman], what the hell are you doing campaigning for that crippled son-of-a-bitch that killed my son Joe?" - - Joseph P. Kennedy Sr.

Sixty-four years ago yesterday, Lieutenant Joseph P. Kennedy Jr., naval aviator, met his untimely death in the skies over England.

Flying a B-24 Liberator bomber, on a TOP SECRET experimental mission, the details of which were not made public knowledge for FIFTY YEARS AFTER THE FACT!!

"British military officials did not want their people to know that planes packed with explosives, under shaky radio control, were flying over the country [England]."

A B-24 Liberator packed with high-explosive [ten tons worth], manually taken aloft and flown - - part way to the target - - guided the rest of the way to the objective by remote control from a chase plane, the two-man crew having previously bailed out. Intended to destroy German “V” [Vengeance] weaponry. A “flying bomb”, part of the Operation Aphrodite project.

It was Joseph Jr. that the father. Joseph Sr. had been grooming to become the first Irish Catholic President of the United States. Joseph Jr. had already completed two tours of duty flying Liberators and was due for return to the U.S. But volunteered for this experimental mission, knowing full well the danger.

For inexplicable reasons, the Liberator, chock full of high explosives, exploded spontaneously, Joseph Jr. and his co-pilot meeting instant death, bodies not recovered [BNR].

Amazingly so, Elliott Roosevelt, THE SON OF PRESIDENT FRANKLIN ROOSEVELT, was flying in an accompanying “chase plane” and witnessed first hand the explosion of the Liberator flown by Kennedy!!!

"Flying among the escorts was Colonel Elliott Roosevelt, the President's son . . . Just twenty-eight minutes after takeoff . . . Colonel Roosevelt saw a blinding flash."

It should not be thought however, that the idea of the “flying bomb” was confined solely to the allies!

The German too developed a similar “flying bomb” weapon system. Call “Mistel” [Mistletoe!]! A German bomber aircraft, the cockpit removed and replaced WITH AN ENORMOUS SHAPED CHARGE, flown to the target by a piggybacked Focke-Wulf [FW] 190!

[is this a case of a fighter strapped to a bomber, or a bomber strapped to a fighter? Since the bomber relies upon the fighter pilot for control, I think the latter? That shaped charge is the largest device of it’s type ever built? This was a unique weapon system!]

"The definitive Mistel warhead was a shaped charge . . . When detonated, the explosion would create a penetrator . . . capable of penetrating up to 7 metres (24 feet) of steel armour."

This particular photo is a head on shot of the shaped charge, [note] the propellers of the un-manned bomber on either side of the explosive device.

The German had in mind a specific mission for the Mistel. Destroy the power plants that supplied 75 % of the electricity used by Soviet munition makers. Missions on paper that did not materialize.

"As part of Operation Iron Hammer in late 1943 and early 1944, Mistels were selected to carry out key raids against Soviet weapons manufacturing facilities -- specifically, electricity-generating plants around Moscow and Gorky"

"If the attack were to succeed in destroying just 2/3 of the turbines it would have knocked out about 75% of the power used by the Soviet defence industry."

Missions of this type never seemed to work well during the Second World War. Results generally were always less, sometimes much less, than what was hoped for. I am thinking here of Schweinfurt [ball bearings] or Ploesti [oil]. The thought was - - one concentrated bombing effort - - a “maximum effort” - - would so cripple the Nazi munitions industry and war making potential that the German military would literally grind to a halt.


Please note too from the Operation Aphrodite wiki site the uniformly unsuccessful nature of the various Aphrodite missions. The concept was sound but the “hustle” was wrong? Remote-control flying of an aircraft using electronics and electro-mechanical controls available AT THE TIME was not just feasible to the degree needed?

Japanese pilots from the era of course would have welcomed, been grateful, and even relished to have flown an Aphrodite mission! ONE PLANE - - ONE TARGET - - ONE MISSION - - END OF TARGET!! And no bailing out either!!

As to the comments of Joseph P. Kennedy Sr. NO!! Joseph Jr. was a very brave man who died an unfortunate death, doing his duty and way beyond that!! Joseph Jr. knew what had to be done, and died in the process. NOT the fault of FDR!!




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