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The News

Tsunami Bomb

Total war, such as WW2, pushes weapon development along all sorts of paths.  The atomic bomb was the ultimate development which overshadowed all others.  One discontinued path was the Tsunami Bomb.

picture of tidal wave

During the war, a US Navy officer noticed wave actions created by blasting through coral reefs,  a wartime expedient that would horrify environmentalists today.  In 1944, the US teamed up with New Zealand at the University of Auckland to study the effects and possibly recommend a course of action.  It was found to be feasible, but the amount of explosives necessary to create a modest tsunami could just as well have been dropped on the coastal city in question doing more damage than any tsunami.

The idea of a Tsunami bomb still thrills conspiracy theorists, who contend that an evil consortium of India, US and Israel detonated a nuclear bomb underwater causing the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami.  With all the nuclear watchdog stuff going on around the globe,  this does seem highly unlikely, and no sane nation would embark on such a path.  However, just cruising the headlines, sanity seems to be in short supply.

The remains of war in Biville, France

Not far from Omaha Beach on the sands of Normandy, lie the remains of a huge number of armored vehicles.  The majority seem to be Shermans, but there are some I can't identify.  You would think most of this stuff would have been cleaned up by now, but maybe there is just such a huge number of these remains that it's not possible.  The bottoms of the lakes and rivers most likely have plenty of remains also.

picture of wreck in Bilville France

One such place around Vasteville has been extensively photographed by Panoramio contributor golouat.  His page is full of armored vehicles in various states of decay.  There is also this video of the Biville/Vasteville area, from YouTube contributor ritchiewinter.

Curtis LeMay and the Combat Box

The Schweinfurt Raids 1943

General Curtis Lemay wanted to clean Germany's clock.  What he had to do it with was the most heavily gunned bomber force in history.  He was running missions just inside Germany but he wanted to go for the gold.  The planners wanted the ball bearing factories, but they were deep into Germany, far beyond any fighter escort available at the time.  LeMay knew his guys could do it.

picture of Curtis LeMay

Curtis LeMay wasn't one to be left behind, he flew the lead bomber.  Each ship had 10 crew, and guns bristled out every end.  He was a firm believer in the bomber doctrine that said if you had enough bombers with enough guns close to each other, they would form a box that an enemy fighter couldn't penetrate and live.  In effect they could defend themselves and didn't require fighter escort.  The Schweinfurt raids would prove the point.  It proved that it didn't work.

diagram of combat box

The Combat Box - image by wikimedia contributor anynobody

The first raid in August, 1943 was a dual raid, Regensburg and the Messerschmitt factories, and Schweinfurt with the ball bearing factories.  The intent was to raid both cities at once, splitting up the fighter defense, but fog delayed the Schweinfurt crews,  and German fighters had plenty of time to pummel the Regensburg force, refuel and rearm and take on the planes heading for Schweinfurt.  Nineteen percent of the aircraft participating were shot down.  Hundreds of fighters assailed both bomber streams, and from their close positions in the 'combat box', flak took their toll too.  600 aircrew were lost to the Allies, almost 400 were captured.  Of the planes that made it back, many would never fly again.
The German factories took a beating too, and Albert Speer, the German Armaments Minister, was getting nervous.  British area bombing didn't bother him so much, but the Americans and their pinpoint attacks on German war industry was another thing.  Without ball bearings, Speer's war machine would come to a complete halt.  His aircraft were already running though millions of ball bearings a month.  Ball bearing output dropped 38%, and the lost production of Bf-109's amounted to about 1000 planes.  The mission accomplished it's goal.

picture of B-17's over Schweinfurt

Schweinfurt was hit again in October, and again without escort.  Lemay was promoted out of his aircraft (they didn't want to lose him.) and 291 B-17's crossed the German border and watched the P-47's turn back, running low on fuel.  There were 1000 German fighters available and it seemed that every one of them took a shot at the bomber force.  Planes were dropping everywhere, flak was telling too.  60 of the big bombers were lost, many that made it back were written off as unrepairable.  Losses were way over 20%.  Ball bearing production dropped so much that Albert Speer tried to buy ball bearings from Sweden.  

picture of damaged B-17

The raids were a pyrrhic victory.  German war industry was in disarray, but morale in the bomber crews had sunk to a new low.  The fliers weren't stupid, they could see that if they kept this up, there wouldn't be any bomber crews alive to go home again.  It was painfully obvious that escort fighters would be needed to be successful.  By December, 1943, the P-51 arrived on the scene, and with it came an escort fighter with long enough legs to keep up with the bombers no matter where they went. 

Video from the NewClassroom Channel

The British Mk VII Heavy Tank

The last iteration of the British heavy tank series was the Mk VII.  It attempted to improve crew conditions, and have an ability to cross wider trenches, and in some ways did.  However it's limitations and the end of the war closed this chapter in tank construction.  It's design and production included input from the Americans.

picture of Mk VII tank

Crew conditions were abominable in WW1 era tanks.  The British heavy Mk series of tanks were the worst culprits, as the crew shared their quarters with the engine.  Anyone who has worked on a pre-1920 type engine would understand how bad that could be, enclosed with an oil and fuel leaking monster that produced copious amounts of noxious fumes.  In the Mk VII, the engine was at last enclosed in the rear behind a bulkhead, shielding all but the motorman from it's effects.  This inevitably made the tank longer, which was seen as a feature that allowed it to cross wider trenches.  This feature made turning the tank harder, and it was much tougher on the tracks, snapping them in the process.  Different track designs were tried, and finally a track design that was barely adequate was settled on.  Turning the tank, especially in wet weather and sloppy mud was never fully overcome.

Picture of Mk VII tank

To keep the weight down, the armor plate was skimped on, leaving the Mk VII with armor that wouldn't be acceptable by WW2.  This left the machine still vulnerable to artillery fire, something the Germans had adequate amounts of.  In the end, the prototype ran under it's own power on the day of the Armistice, and after that only a little over a hundred tanks were built.  Production of any type of war material came to an end soon after, ensuring the demise of this version of the heavy tank.  The Canadian ended up with American production of the machine, which amounted to most of them.  The British had only built seven and that was it for them.


picture of Mk VII tank

There are still a few examples around. There is one at the excellent Bovington tank museum, and a couple in American military museums,  An American Mk VII with a converted Liberty aircraft engine is interred at Fort Meade's museum, while another is at the Aberdeen Proving Grounds at the Ordnance Museum, however this one is being relocated north of Baltimore at Ft. Lee.

This video shows the movie version of a Mk VII, from "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade".  It's built on an excavator chassis and built to look like a Mk VII, with a turret added.  From philtydirtyanimal's channel.

England's supercarrier, Queen Elizabeth Class

The aircraft carrier Queen Elizabeth is taking shape in Scotland.  The ship has been built all over the United Kingdom with sections built by subcontractors and assembled at Babcock's dockyard at Rosyth.  The biggest section was moved into place last November, but the aircraft carrier won't begin any kind of trials for another four years.

picture of Queen Elizabeth concept

From the Royal Navy website

It's quite a beast.  This is the largest warship ever to be built in the UK and approaches the size of America's supercarriers.  The weapons systems are fed by a military version of a FEDEX warehouse.  Tracks carry palletised loads of ammunition that are automatically routed to their destination.  The aircraft will be STOL versions of the F-35, since the catapult went way over budget. The ship will be driven by 2 huge electric motors, with some of the biggest gas turbine and diesel generators ever in the Royal Navy.    

Britain aims to have this ship and possibly one other to comprise their entire carrier force when the current carriers reach their end of life.  This and the fact that it takes forever to build one is kind of scary when you face the possibility of losing them in battle.  Anti ship missiles and torpedos are serious weapons.  In the first year of WW2 the US alone lost five carriers.  The good thing is that there are relatively few adversaries with the capability of taking on England, which would also include the US being involved.

The following video is from Royal Navy Live's channel on Youtube