On This Day…April 7th.
The date of April 7th was a day of utter desperation for the main Axis powers in WWII. In Germany the Luftwaffe launched operation ‘Sonderkommando Elbe’ while in the Pacific, the Japanese threw their last hopes behind Operation ‘Ten-go’.
Sonderkommando Elbe, literally ‘special command’ (the Elbe is a major European river of historical significance, a waterway the German sages proclaimed ‘carries the ashes of history’) saw the Luftwaffe sent 180 mainly student pilots into a de facto suicide mission.
The pilots were dispatched with stripped down 109’s that had virtually no fuel, reduced armament, ripped out armour, and just a few dozen rounds each. They were ordered to essentially ram the approaching bombers, picking specifically vulnerable points on the aircraft, before, “parachuting to safety”…
The allied bombers numbered over 1,300 Fortresses and Liberators and although only 15 bombers were hit by ramming tactics, 8 of these were completely destroyed.
Photo above shows the B-17 “E-Z Goin'”. It was rammed by a Sonderkommando Elbe pilot, and her left stabilizer was ripped off, engine No. 1 was out, and rudder was unresponsive. Despite all this, the crew managed to return to England and land safely.
Below, the Messerschmitt BF 109 of Unteroffizier Heinrich Rosner that took part in the ramming down the B 24 Liberator “Palace of Dallas” (of the 389th Bomb Group) as well as a second and unknown B 24 Liberator. Successively ramming two planes (the second apparently accidental) with a single fragile fighter and ending the day alive is nothing short of extraordinary.
In Okinawa, the Japanese resorted to their own last ditch tactics, under ‘Operation Ten-Go’ (‘Ten-ichi-go’ – translated “heaven one”).
The essential plan was to run the Yamato and nine other battleships as a suicide strike force to halt the American advance at Okinawa. The strategy was to synchronise this attack with a ground counterattack on Okinawa and an air Kamikaze assault (that curiously never emerged, giving the Japanese task force no air cover).
Such was the poor decision making and resources of the Japanese attack that the main tension of the day became whether the prize of the Yamato would fall to the battleships (under Admiral Spruance) or the Carriers (guided by Vice Admiral Mitscher).
Eventually, it was the Air Goups of the Carriers that won the day, sinking the most powerfully armed battleship ever constructed.
The Hohenzollern Bridge (or at least what is left of it) over the Rhine in Cologne, April 7th, 1945.
Cromwell Mk. VII of the 2nd Battalion Welsh Guards hit by 7.5 cm KwK 40 fire at 600 yards – 7th April 1945. This was one of three tanks knocked out in an encounter with an unidentified German jagdpanzer. The tank was shot at 6 times and took 5 hits.
An F4U Corsair burned out on USS Hancock (CV-19) after a kamikaze attack off Okinawa – 7th April 1945
Below is the view of USS Hancock burning after being struck by the kamikaze above, off Okinawa, Japan, 7 Apr 1945. USS Essex’s flight deck in foreground.
Beautifully timed photo of a M4 A3 and crew from 781st Tank Battalion waiting for orders to cross the river Naecker, Heilbronn, Germany.
USS Ranger (CV-4) transiting the Pedro Miguel Locks of the Panama Canal, April 7th, 1935.
America’s fourth aircraft carrier, Ranger, was commissioned at Norfolk, Virginia, United States and although smaller than the USS Lexington and USS Saratoga, she was the first US carrier to be designed and built as a carrier from the keel up.
US soldiers of the (10th Armoured and 45th Division)of the 7th Army posing on a captured German ‘Rail Gun’ – Rentwerthausen, Germany.
5 additional images. Click to enlarge.