On This Day…March 16th
On 16th March, 1944, the 332nd Fighter Group (The Tuskegee Airmen) took delivery of three P47s in their base in Sicily to start their transition training from P40s. It was with the Thunderbolts that the air group had orders to paint the tails and spinners red (contrary to Hollywood lore) and gained the nickname ‘Redtails’. Their flirtation with the Jugs was very short lived as they took delivery of their iconic P51s just a few weeks later.
This TBF-1 Avenger attempts to land on the carrier USS Charger (CV-30), missing the arresting wires and ends up tangled in the port catwalk. Chesapeake Bay, United States, 16th March, 1943. Coast Guard boats alongside.
B17E Flying Fortress (41-9175) on the 16th of March 1943 at RAF Burtonwood, England. Note the RAF shadow shading camouflage.
On the night of 16th March 1941 the German Luftwaffe dispatched 184 aircraft to raid the English harbour installations of Bristol and Avonmouth. One of the bomber groups involved was KG 51 ( Kjampfgeschwader 51) flying from Melun-Villaroche, near Paris
One of the Ju88s on this mission developed engine trouble and subsequently crash landed. The four air crew bailed successfully, with the first three being immediately apprehended by local police. The fourth, Flight Mechanic Otto Hoferrichter, tells his version of a peculiarly English story of being on the run (for almost a week) before (presumably through boredom and hunger) handing himself in…
“I was flight mechanic of one of three aircraft which crash-landed in March 1941 over England. Due to engine trouble, we were ordered to bale out over the south of England, exactly where I do not know. It was a new experience for me to jump out and I pulled the ripcord at once. We had been instructed that we should remove our throat microphones before baling out, but I had forgotten to do this and nearly strangled myself.”
“It was a clear night with light ground mist and as I came through the clouds, I saw beneath me a small stream and made a soft landing. I dragged the parachute towards a river and pushed it into the mud. I then sought a hiding-place in a small wood and waited for the morning.”
“During the day there was quite a lot of flying activity overhead. In a prison I would not get the opportunity to escape, so I planned to go to an airfield and try to make a flight with a plane. It was a splendid spring day and I tried to sleep without much success. I would like to have shot one of the rabbits running about, but that would certainly have attracted attention.”
“When it became dark I thought I would try and get on my way. Finding in a field a drain ditch with clear water, I quenched my severe thirst and then continued over fields, but did not venture on to roads. In one field I thought that perhaps I could milk a cow, but as soon as I approached it, it ran off. Another field was covered with hen-houses, but I could find no eggs. I then decided to walk along the road and if I came across people, I would dive into the ditch.”
“In a village, I met some people and was too late to run, so I remained bold and continued towards them. They greeted me and I mumbled something in return. From a house there came the smell of bacon frying. I was near the house, and because of the smell I was inclined I to break in, but there were obviously occupants up and about, so I left it.”
“That morning, I saw a farmer who was ploughing his field. I thought that perhaps I could take a piece of bread from his dinner bag unnoticed, but I was not able to.
When I saw some soldiers coming through the wood. I dropped to the ground, and remained completely motionless. One of the Englishmen passed scarcely twenty yards from me, without seeing me and from that moment, my appetite disappeared. I just remained lying there until it became dark.”
Otto was captured, fed, and lived to an old age.
Nice detail shot as mechanics make final adjustments to an engine on an Avro Lancaster. This was just before a flight from an Avro factory in Manchester, England to its new bomber group on 16th March 1942.
Quite astonishing photo dated March 16th, 1945 at the foot of Mount Suribachi on Iwo Jima. A US Marine offers a cigarette to a Japanese soldier who had lain buried in ash and dirt for almost two days holding on to a ‘live’ grenade, while pretending to be dead.
There are several noteworthy discussion points around this photo. I guess the first is why, given the horrors the American must have seen over the last two weeks or so, the marine just didn’t shoot him. Knowing the Japanese had a grenade (seen in the photo in the soldier’s right hand), given the obvious communication difficulties, the clear tensions of battle, exhaustion, and extreme predudice (on both sides) – it must have taken an enormous force of will to want to resolve this situation peacefully. Or perhaps not? May have been the most natural thing in the world for that marine to work this out without bloodshed. Which, in its own way, is even more remarkable.
The type 99 grenade, which requires the pin to be pulled (as it was in the photo above) and struck against a hard surface (usually a helmet) to detonate.
The two photos below are of a ‘phrase book’ given to the island hopping marines in the Pacific campaign. I particularly like, “you can’t urinate there”…
On the exact same day as the photo above, F6F Hellcats of VF 17 and VBF 17 are seen here on the flight deck of the carrier USS Hornet (CV-12) March 16th, 1945.
One for the plane geeks…SBD-4 & SBD-5 Dauntlesses join the USAAF as ‘A-24A Banshees’ at Douglas Aircraft Co’s El Segundo Plant, March 16th, 1943.
The A-24A was an improved version of the A-24 based on the Douglas SBD-4 Dauntless dive bomber. Although similar to the A-24, it had a constant speed propeller and a new electrical system. The Air Corps ordered 170 ‘A’ models, which were diverted from existing Navy contracts and built at the Douglas plant in El Segundo, Calif (above). The A-24As were delivered in 1942 and 1943. The A-24 saw very little combat service in the Pacific Theater, often relegated to non-combat roles as a trainer or target towing for aerial gunnery practice.
Testflight of the Prototype of the Fokker G-1, ‘X-2’ on March 16th 1937, still fitted with the two 750 HP Hispano-Suiza engines (later switched to Bristol Mercury and Pratt and Whittney).
North American P-51D Mustang of the Vll Fighter Command taking off from Saipan, Mariana Islands for the newly-captured airfield on Iwo Jima, Mar 16, 1945. Note the twin oversized VLR (Very Long Range) drop tanks – see below.