Tuesday, October 22, 2013

"Using Slave Labor is Never a Good Idea"

An interesting and illuminating convergence of my interests and hobbies  occurred this week...

Today, I was visiting X-Ray Delta One's Flikr archive to see what was new, and found this very powerful artwork (full size here):

Source: X-Ray Delta One

The masterful use of ink (is it pen [probably], blockprint or scratchboard?) only makes the subject more powerful. The illustration, especially the defiant man to the left, instantly reminded me of what I found the other day while I was looking into the background of several key players in the A-7/A-10 selection and development story. Lt General Howard Fish's recollection of WWII service (Video) led me to off track to other bomber stories (you know how it goes), where I found this on the EAA website:

Elmer Bendiner, B-17 navigator during World War II, tells this story of a bombing run over Kassel, Germany, and the unexpected result of a direct hit on the plane's fuel tanks.

Our B-17, the Tondelayo, was barraged by flack from German anti-aircraft guns. That was not unusual, but on this particular occasion our gas tanks were hit. Later, as I reflected on the miracle of a 20-millimeter shell piercing the fuel tank without touching off an explosion, our pilot, Bohn Fawkes, told me it was not quite that simple. 
On the morning following the raid, Bohn had gone down to ask our crew chief for that shell as a souvenir of unbelievable luck. The crew chief told Bohn that not just one shell but 11 had been found in the gas tanks; 11 unexploded shells where only one was sufficient to blast us out of the sky. It was as if the sea had been parted for us. A near miracle, I thought. Even after 35 years, so awesome an event leaves me shaken, especially after I heard the rest of the story from Bohn. 
He was told that the shells had been sent to the armorers to be defused. The armorers told him that Intelligence had picked them up. They could not say why at the time, but Bohn eventually sought out the answer. 
Apparently when the armorers opened each of those shells, they found no explosive charge. They were as clean as a whistle and just as harmless. Empty? Not all of them! One contained a carefully rolled piece of paper. On it was a scrawl in Czech. The Intelligence people scoured our base for a man who could read Czech. Eventually they found one to decipher the note. It set us marveling. Translated, the note read: 
This is all we can do for you now... 
Using slave labor is never a good idea.   



Marauder said...

Just how low were they flying to be hit by 20mm AAA?

SMSgt Mac said...

Well the 20mm (actually designated 2cm) gun was the most numerous and portable of all the German WW2 AAA and allegedly had an 'effective' range of about 7200ft.

Marauder said...

I don't doubt the veracity of the story; I've read various accounts that observed the relatively high dud rate of German artillery shells from 1944 onwards.

Bombing altitudes steadily declined in the ETO as well..

SMSgt Mac said...

LOL. I've no doubt the story is true, but I wrote off the description of the caliber as Possible/Probable but maybe wrong when I first read it for two reasons. 1. The guy was a navigator and 2. He became a noted author and journalist after the war. Neither one of those specialties are noted for armament expertise.

Don M said...

Confederates used slave labor to fortify Richmond. RE Lee used it a lot, and was called 'The Ace of Spades'. The fortifications were 15 miles thick. Due to his knowledge of that fortification belt, Grant sought to fight Lee outside his fortifications, at the Wilderness, at Spotsylvania Courthouse, at Santa Ana, at Cold Harbor, at Petersburg, and finally around to 5 Forks.

Lee's use of slave labor extended the war by at least 9 months.

Solomon said...

dude. are you ok. i've been in my own world but i just noticed that you haven't posted in a long while.

hope all is well.

SMSgt Mac said...

Hi Sol,
Yeah I'm OK. Just swamped with work, working a major non-blogging writing project (40K words so far), and a bunch of other stuff. The big thing is I didn't want to post anything more until I finished my deep research on CAS. The gov't shutdown also delayed me some because archives weren't available. I'm finding you have to go back to the original sources to avoid creative interpretations of the facts on most of this.