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From: (CDB100620)
Subject: Re: B-24 with B-17 nose.
Date: 15 Mar 1998
Newsgroups: rec.aviation.military

>dominant emotion. If yoyu want to ask how effective bomber fire was, ask a
>German fighter pilot.

While no B-17, the Ki-49 Helen, which was a pest in New Guinea, had enough
firepower to give attacking P-40 drivers pause.  It had up to five 20mm cannon
and three .50 cal guns in nose, back, belly, sides and tail positions.  Crashed
ones seemed to have a fairly wide variety of armament, sometimes .30s replacing
.50s and .50s replacing 20s, but it was, whatever the gunpower,  quite well
defended.  It had self-sealing fuel tanks and armor protection as well, so it
was a tough bird to bring down.  They flew in stepped vees of vees cruising at
about 210 or 220 mph at about 22,000 ft.  As they approached the target, they
would go into a shallow descent to pick up speed.  They seemed to like to pass
over the target at about 10,000 ft., at which point they would be moving at 250
mph or so.
If interception could be made well in advance (at least an hour's warning), the
P-40s would climb to 26,000 ft. and make a diving head-on pass, aiming at the
cockpit.  Nobody ever thought about making this pass upside down, and I don't
think the Allison engine would have appreciated it.  Depending on the situation
with the bombers' escort, the P-40s would then keep going and loiter in the
clouds for a chance at the Helens on their way out, or they would zoom climb
back up and chase the bombers.  When this plane was first met in combat, the
idea was to try  another chance from the rear.  Once the defensive firepower
was appreciated, however, the idea would be to plod past the Helens and make
another head-on pass.  Thus, the Helen's tactic of making a down hill run to
the target to make the P-40's overtake as long as possible. Generally, in any
case, the bombers' fighter escort spoiled any chance of a second pass.  Often
they would spoil the head-on attack as well, making one of their own against
the P-40s.  (Nobody ever told the Jap pilots they had to stick close to the
bombers; they'd be around, but generally intercepting fighters wouldn't see
them until they noticed tracers curling past their cowling and wonder whether
they'd accidently triggered their own guns before the reality of the situation
hit home.)  A P-40 driver diverted from a head-on pass would try to execute a
pursuit curve--not always possible, depending on where the airplanes were in
relation to each other.   If successful, his target would be an engine, the
hope being to slow the plane and force it to drop from formation and turn back.
 The pursuit curve was dangerous because it exposed the P-40's plumbing (all
bunched neatly--and vulnerably--up front) to some serious counterfire.  All
those winking lights on the Helen also tended to discourage the pilot from
pressing home the attack.  The farther he was from a friendly airfield, the
quicker he got discouraged, as there was no means of rescuing a  pilot down
over the jungle if he was unable to get back by himself.  Since the pilot was
also worried about getting an Oriental gentleman in a a single-seater on  his
ass if he didn't get in and out  fast, the pursuit curve was often not pressed
home as vigorously as it could have been.  Anybody who actually shot down a
Helen was regarded with some awe by his squadron buddies.  He was either
supernaturally lucky, or a hell of a gutsy guy.
The P-39 drivers had better luck knocking off Helens.  They would  make head-on
passes, and if they connected with a round from their 37mm it was good-by Miss
Helen.  They also executed pursuit curves, like the P-40s, but seemed to press
them home much more vigorously.  They had no plumbing up front to be hit by the
bombers' defensive fire.  Had a big 37mm to absorb hits from the bombers'
gunners, and had enough firepower with that damned cannon to knock a Helen six
ways from sideways if they connected.
If any kind of cooperation was possible between the squadrons flying the P-40s
and those flying the P-39s, the idea would be for the P-40s to draw off the
figher escort and leave the bombers to the Bell boys.  That suited the Curtiss
drivers just fine.  They much preferred to match flying skills with Mr. Moto
than engage in a game of chicken with a formation of bombers, any one of which
alone outgunned their airplane.

From: (CDB100620)
Subject: Re: B-24 with B-17 nose.
Date: 21 Mar 1998
Newsgroups: rec.aviation.military

> Remember that
>the strategy of attacking from the front was developed because that was
>the weakest point in a Fort's defensive screen, not because it was the
>most effective way to bring down a bomber.

Absolutely correct.  One of the best ways to maximize damage to a bomber is to
attack in a pursuit curve.  But the defensive firepower of a well-armed bomber
also ensures that this method guarantees maximum damage to the attacking
fighter as well.

For another purpose, I was looking through a book about the RAF published
during the war. Titled "Bombers' Battle: Bomber Command's Three Years of War,"
it was published in 1943 by Duckworth.  The author is anonymous, but is
described as a wing commander.  In any case, in discussing how bombers can
survive the German air defenses, he states there are two ways, one by
sufficiently sturdy construction of the bomber such that it can survive
multiple hits and return to base, and the other "is the capacity of our bombers
to fight back when intercepted by fighters.  Our bombers have been designed to
get the greatest possible fire-power into the air; weight of bombs and then
guns were to be of the first importance, while speed and manoeuverabilty were
to be sacrificed to armament."  The author goes on to speak of the development
of power turrets, adding, "Inevitably, these turrets reduced the bomber's
speed.  But the policy of installing power-operated turrets was amply justified
in the event. Speed with strong armament is obviously ideal, but speed without
strong armament cannot protect the bomber in combat with modern fighters."  The
author notes, "The mere sight of the bombers' guns often has a deterrent effect
on the German fighter pilot; an experienced gunner keeps his guns rotating most
of the time, so that no fighter can creep up on one side of the bomber without
getting a sight of the guns trained towards it."
The author describes the April 17, 1942 daylight attack by 12 Lancasters
against the M.A.N. diesel engine factory at Augsburg, in which he apparently
participated (it is not made clear, but it is possible the author of this book
is J.D. Nettleton, who won a VC for actions with Bomber Command).  The planes
attacked in two groups of six, and one of these groups was intercepted by
fighters.  The Lancasters dropped down to tree-top level and adopted a very
tight formation, fighting back with their power turrets.  In the running
battle, four of the Lancasters were shot down, but two made it through, and the
author attributes this survival to their defensive firepower. (Three of the
other group of six Lancasters were also shot down.)

From: (CDB100620)
Subject: Re: B-24 with B-17 nose.
Date: 21 Mar 1998
Newsgroups: rec.aviation.military

> With less [fewer] guns the B-17 would
>have had more warload, more fuel, higher alts, or all three.  This
>to me seems to be a pretty good set of attributes for a bomber.

Let's see, who are some folks that would not have  agreed:
Brig. Gen. Ira Eaker, commander 8AF 1942-43; Brig. Gen. Curtiss LeMay,
commander 3rd Air Division and in charge of bomber formation tactics; Lt. Gen.
James Doolittle, commander of 8AF, 1944-45; Lt. Gen. Carl Spaatz, commander,
USAFE; Maj. Gen. Frederick Anderson, chief of staff for operations, USAFE, and
attrition warfare specialist; Gen. Henry H. Arnold, commander, USAAF.  They all
approved of adding more guns and armor to the B-17 from the time they first got
reports of how poorly lightly armed and armored early model B-17s fared in
British service.  They had the facts.  They made the decisions.  They won their
war.  Maybe they were not completely stupid.

The airplane you have described in your posts--no or few guns, little or no
armor-- is essentially the B-17D.  No one who flew B-17s in WWII that I have
met--and I've met plenty--ever said they would have preferred to have fought
the war in the D rather than the G.

As you have mentioned, fighters are important in protecting bombers.  But they
can't be everywhere.  Some of the worst numerical losses the 8AF suffered at
the hands of the GAF were in 1944 when the Mustangs were around in full force.
Reducing the guns and armor on the B-17s would not have helped reduce those
losses.  A few mph extra speed would have been meaningless.  Ditto for
altitude, remembering that the rate of climb for a grossed out (whether that
gross was gas, guns, armor or bombs), war-weary B-17 was no more than 300 fpm
at best, that on a typical mission you're not going to get the thing to fly
substantially higher than the maximum altitudes flown by regularly armed and
armored B-17s anyway.  Also consider that the higher you fly, the less accurate
your bomb pattern.  And if you want more bombs on target for any given range,
you just fly more bombers on the mission.
Above all, understand that bombers were not sent out with orders telling them
to fly as high as you can and as fast as you can to avoid getting shot down.
They were sent to bomb specific targets.  To maximize bombs on target they were
told to fly at certain altitudes, often well below the altitude they could have
flown at, even if that put them right in the middle of flak or fighters. If
they got shot down, tough. The important thing was to put the bombs on the
target, not come home in one piece.   In one well-known incident, Brig. Gen.
Orville Anderson, USAAF representative on the Combined Operational Planning
Committee, suggested B-24s not be sent on raids to Berlin because they could
not fly high enough to get out of the worst of the flak and fighters.  Maj.
Gen. Frederick Anderson insisted the B-24s should go.  Orville Anderson
groaned, "God, they'll just get killed in them."  To which Frederick Anderson
replied, "Well?"
The reality was that the USAFE had orders to destroy the GAF no matter what the
cost in men and machines.  Crews would fly the missions they were assigned, to
whatever target, at whatever altitude, over whatever route they were told.  To
survive, both physically and emotionally, they needed steel plate for
protection and plenty of fight-back gunpower, even if some of it might have
been of little more than pyschological value.
 Later in the war, when the radioman's gun was removed and one waistgunner
eliminated from the B-17, it was done to give a little more room in a very
cramped area rather than to improve the performance of the airplane.

From: (CDB100620)
Subject: Re: B-24 with B-17 nose.
Date: 23 Mar 1998
Newsgroups: rec.aviation.military

>> the strategy of attacking from the front was developed because that was
>> the weakest point in a Fort's defensive screen, not because it was the
>> most effective way to bring down a bomber.
>  Everything I've read about this
>topic states otherwise, that this tactic
>was specifically used because it was the best way to bring a bomber down.
>You can kill all the gunners you wish wit no effect on the plane, whereas if
>you hit the cockpit things are a little different.

Nothing prevents a fighter attacking a bomber in a pursuit curve from targeting
the cockpit--except the bomber's defensive fire.  In a head-on attack, aiming
for the cockpit is easier than trying for an engine because you are putting the
gunsight on the center of mass, and if you have wing guns that converge a
certain distance ahead, when you open fire your rounds will converge toward the
center of mass (cockpit) from the outer wings and then back again as you close
the distance and scoot on by.  If you are piloting a fighter with centerline
guns, targeting the center of mass still makes sense because it is a bigger
target, and rounds that strike the front of the fuselage will pass through
until they hit something.  Since, in a head-on, closing at about 750 fps,
you're only going to be in firing range for less than two seconds, targeting
center of mass is the only hope you have of getting hits.  It's not an ideal
way to attack a bomber, but is the safest from the point of view of reducing
the risk of defensive fire.   The pursuit curve is the best way, giving you
plenty of time to pour rounds into the engine-wing-fuel tank-crew compartment
area.  But it is also can be the riskiest if the bomber is well defended.

If the head-on was the most effective way to shoot down a bomber, GAF night
fighters would have been trying to use it against Bomber Command planes.
Instead, they developed equipment and tactics to attack from an undefended
position.  And they didn't bother to target the cockpit at all.  They went for
the engine-wing-fuel tank area.

From: (CDB100620)
Subject: Re: Defending the Mosquito (was B-24 with B-17 nose.)
Date: 23 Mar 1998
Newsgroups: rec.aviation.military

>Making the assumption that a bomber with a 2,000lb load is a light
>bomber and one with a 4,000 lb load is a medium bomber, the Mosquito did
>not become a "medium" bomber until 1944....

One of the few rational and sensible posts in this thread.

There was an Air Materiel Command non-flying bird colonel at Olmstead Field
after the war where a bunch of AAF types were kicking around the sky in
captured kraut and Jap planes.  He would go through his papers, fiddle with his
slide rule and tell the pilots which airplanes could outfly which--before any
of 'em left the ground.  Trouble was, he was usually wrong.  In the air, the
planes didn't always  behave just the way the numbers said they would.   This
major  refused to believe what the pilots told him.  He would argue with the
kids who flew the planes, and tell them they were wrong, because he had the
numbers.  There were some nose-to-nose yelling matches that he always won
because he ended up pulling rank on the captains and majors.  God knows what
kind of crap he wrote in official reports that was just plane (pun intended)
His type was not uncommon in the service, no doubt in the service of all
countries.  He was opinionated, argumentative, and never admitted that he
couldn't possibly understand what those who flew in combat understood
instinctively.  Everybody knew it, and after a while they let him have his way,
because the war was over and who cared anyway?  But during the war, this type
often caused great harm by forcing those who actually flew missions to use the
wrong equipment or tactics.  One of a squadron commander's jobs was often to
figure out ways to circumvent the orders of these types without appearing
insubordinate.  They didn't always succeed.

Just one last point on the value of waist guns on the B-17.  Ted Milton, CO of
the 348BG, had them removed when he discovered some .50 cal holes in some of
his planes after they returned from missions.  He determined that they were
most likely caused by fire from waist gunners.  He was pissed and ordered all
the waist guns ripped out his group's planes--over the loud protests of his
crews.  He also bawled out the waist gunners and told them they were a bunch of
worthless screw-ups, more dangerous to his planes than the Luftwaffe was.
Shortly after, he was leading a mission when one of his planes, damaged by
enemy fire, dropped out of the formation.  The top turret had been hit and
wasn't working. Milton watched helplessly as an FW 190 flew up and, after
making a few tentative passes, parked just above and to the side of the Fort
and calmly fired away until it went down, with not a single remaining gun on
the B-17 in a position to reply.  There were no chutes. When he got back on the
ground after that mission, Milton ordered the waist guns put back on his
planes.  And he publicly apologized to the group, taking personal
responsibility for the B-17 and crew that had been lost.  Maybe a waist gun
firing back wouldn't have saved that plane--but maybe it would have.  Maybe a
waist gun winking away at that FW would have kept the Fort alive until some
P-51s could show up.  Whatever the case, Milton knew that by his direct order
he had made that crew helpless to defend itself and had guaranteed their
deaths.  Fortunately, he was man enough to admit it and retract his order.  He
had learned the lesson all his crews knew all too well:  redundancy is crucial.
 Most of the time, you don't need it.  You hope you never do.  But when the
time comes that you need it, by God, you  really, really need it.  In combat,
worn out, beat-up equipment often fails, even if the enemy doesn't manage to
damage it.  Even if the equipment works, crewmen are often incapacitated.
You've got to have back-up.  Waist guns, ball turrets, radio guns, cheek guns,
chin turrets, top turrets, tail turrets, fighter escort, good weather and good
luck--those boys needed it all, and more.

From: (CDB100620)
Subject: Re: Defending the Mosquito (was B-24 with B-17 nose.)
Date: 25 Mar 1998
Newsgroups: rec.aviation.military

>The entire story makes Milton appear to be a rather emotional type,
>prone to making implusive, drastic decisions.

Negative. The only time he got emotional was on the golf course. Milton
frequently told the story on himself, and it is widely know.
Milton was recognized as one of the top leaders of the 8AF, his capabilities on
par with those of Frank  Anderson and LeMay.  He had a very distinguished
career, ending up with four stars.

> A sharp contrast, for
>example, with a calculating type like Doolittle...

Actually, Doolittle was considered a little too emotional, receiving an
official reprimand from Spaatz for exhibiting excessive concern for his men and
too little concern for acomplishing his mission.  Frank Anderson also reamed
out Doolittle's butt for using weather as an excuse for cancelling missions.
Doolittle, in the eyes of his superiors, often seemed unable to act,and more
than one made reference to McClellan when discussing him.  Of course, the
aircrew under Doolittle were damned glad to have a commander who knew a few
things about coming in on instruments to a socked-in field after a hard day in
the saddle.  Doolittle was called many things--but "calculating"?  That's a new

From: (CDB100620)
Subject: Re: Defending the Mosquito (was B-24 with B-17 nose.)
Date: 26 Mar 1998
Newsgroups: rec.aviation.military

>"The German fighters began to attack the Fortress formations from the "twelve
>o'clock high" spot directly head-on. This innovation was supposedly
>introduced by Luftwaffe Oberleutnant Egon Mayer

The 49th Fighter Group defending Darwin was using head-on attacks against
Japanese bombers in the spring (er, fall, Australia-wise) of 1942, months
before 8AF B-17s began attacking the European continent.  This was a strategy
long advocated by Gen. Harold "Pursuit Hal" George--against bombers in general,
not any specific model.  It was done to reduce the effectiveness of the
defensive firepower of the bombers, and make escorting fighters' intercept
solutions difficult.  If there were no escorting fighters, the standard tactic
would be to make head-on attacks until the formation was broken up, then attack
individual bombers from the stern quarters.  It was routine to shoot out gun
positions before closing in for the kill.  Bomber types with limited defensive
armament fell easy prey to AAF intercepting fighters.  Those with heavy
defensive armament did not.  The type of bomber and how well it was known to be
defended and armored determined the aggressiveness with which it was attacked
and how many fighters would attack an individual bomber (Against a formation of
heavily armed and armored bombers like the Helen, a flight of four might follow
their leader in line-astern attack on a single plane, whereas against a lightly
armed and armored bomber like the the Val, a flight of four might break up into
four individual attack runs against four different bombers.)

The very first intercept the 8th Fighter Group made against Japanese bombers
over Port Moresby at the beginning of April, 1942, was organized as a head-on
attack; it resulted in the destruction of three bombers, and that was the
preferred method from then on because it worked, and it was comparatively safe.

Throughout all of 1942 and most of 1943, AAF fighters in Australia and New
Guinea were outnumbered by a large factor, and perhaps faced a situation that
had some similarities with what the GAF faced c. 1944.  The head-on attack was
the only way to ensure fighters had a chance to inflict damage on enemy bombers
while escaping destruction themselves.  In a typical instance that I have some
familiarity with, four P-38s were directed to intercept 27 Helens escorted by
an equal number of Tonys.  The Helens were at 24,000 ft., 20 minutes from
Dobodura, when the P-38s, at 31,000 ft., acquired them.  The Lightnings
maneuvered to the front of the formation, dove head on, each element of two
targeting a single Helen.  Escorting Tony high cover spotted the P-38s and dove
on them, coming in from high three o'clock swinging to six o'clock, but were
unable to fire on the Lockheeds without also firing into their own bombers.
The P-38s fired on their targeted bombers, both of which fell out of the
formation, dove away at an indicated 475 mph, losing the pursuing escorts, then
zoom-climbed up to 30,000 ft., overtook the bomber formation (pulling 60
inches), which was in a shallow descent moving fast, and were able to do the
same thing once more before the bombers reached their release point.  The
Helens, incidentally, did not break formation, but merely closed ranks and kept
on going.  They dropped a beautiful pattern right on  Warhawk Row.
After their second attack on the bombers, the four Lightnings engaged the Tony
escort, despite being outnumbered seven to one, shooting down two for the loss
of one of their own--one that had been damaged when it clipped the tail of a
Helen in the second head-on, but whose pilot stayed to duke it out with the Jap
fighters anyway. This pilot free-fell for 10,000 ft. before opening his chute
to avoid being straffed by the Japanese fighters, but one Jap pilot took a pot
shot at him anyway.  It cost the Jap his life, because two boys in P-40s who
had scrambled after the P-38s fell on him like the wrath of God and issued him
a one-way, first class ticket straight to hell.
 The only thing that upset the P-38 driver about the whole affair was that when
his chute snapped open and he stopped falling, his prized, fleece-lined
Australian flying boots kept on going.

> Seems to me this is nothing more than a popularity contest.

That and a way to pass the time that is mildly more amusing than doing
crossword puzzles.  Every VA hospital should issue its patients laptop
computers connected to the internet.  In the long run it would cut their costs,
because the old vets would get so infuriated by some of the foolishness they
read that they would keel over from heart attacks and the hospital staff could
load their carcasses into wheelbarrows and haul them out to the dumpster.

Nothing personal.  It's all in fun.  So few people in the newsgroup have any
interest in WW2 aviation that it behooves the handful that do not to piss each
other off--although the temptation is often great.  Shall we start a thread
arguing whether it was the Sterling or the Halifax that was really the greatest
bomber of WWII? Stride 10 paces, turn and fire!

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