On This Day…April 9th.
US Navy crewman loading .50 caliber ammunition on a F2A Buffalo, Naval Air Station Miami, United States, 9th of April, 1943.
…the same aircraft, Lieutenant Walter A. Haas in the cockpit.
Warships in Victoria Harbour, Hong Kong, 9-14 April 1928. Of the larger warships, left to right, are Japanese battleship Mutsu, Japanese light cruiser Tenryu, British carrier Hermes (more of her in a moment) and Japanese battleship Fuso.
An Advanced Servicing Unit work on a Spitfire of 145 squadron (Polish Fighting Team) at Gabes Gap, Tunisia, on April 9th, 1943. The pilot, Eugeniusz Horbaczewski was hit by a Bf 109 after himself shooting down a 109. He glided into the airfield after taking a canon shot to the engine a couple of days before this photo was taken.
A couple of days ago I wrote briefly of the sinking of the Dorsetshire and the Cornwall in the Battle of Ceylon, April 1942. Two days after the loss of those ships, the Royal Navy took a bitter blow at the loss of the HMS Hermes.
HMS Hermes was the first ship in the world to be designed hull up (and built) as a dedicated aircraft carrier. Her novelty caused many functional and procedural problems such as having too small a hangar capacity (only 20 aircraft could be stored). Her instability at high seas caused by the large starboard island was another example (this can be seen readily below; compare the island to subsequent carrier designs).
As Chuichi Nagumo’s Japanese carrier fleet approached Ceylon on April 9th for a strike at Trincomalee, the British carrier left the port without any aircraft on board, managing to avoid the Japanese strike force. However, she was spotted by a Japanese reconnaissance aircraft (from battleship Haruna) southeast of Batticaloa, Ceylon.
Hermes and her escort attempted to turn back to Trincomalee where her fighters could be assembled to protect her, but they were never to make it. Hermes was attacked by a wave of 85 Japanese D3A carrier dive bombers escorted by 9 A6M Zero fighters.
At least 32 of the dive bombers attacked, hitting Hermes 40 times. She sank quickly, killing 307, Captain Richard F. J. Onslow going down with his beloved ship.
With no air cover, Hermes’ escort, the Australian destroyer HMAS Vampire, was also sunk. The Japanese lost only four D3A dive bombers in the attack.
12 British Fulmar II fighters of No. 273, 803, and 806 Naval Air Squadrons arrived only after the sinking, two of them shot down by the Japanese. Most of the 590 survivors were picked up by hospital ship Vita and delivered to Colombo, Ceylon.
(The wreck of the Hermes, off Sri Lanka)
The painting above depicts an interesting and controversial event in aviation history. On the 9th of April, 1945, Hans Guido Mutke had been instructed to take his Me 262 on a training mission at high altitude.
Mutke climbed to about 36,000 ft (11,000 m) straight from takeoff. En route to his ceiling, his flight controller warned about a P-51 Mustang that was closing in on one of his cohort of trainees. He decided to fly to the aid of his colleague and pushed the jet into a steep left bank to dive towards the Mustang.
(Hans Guido Mutke’s ‘White Three’)
Within seconds of entering the dive, the aircraft began shuddering violently and the Messerschmitt’s tail was buffeted back and forth. The airspeed indicator had reached a dead end at 684 mph (1,100 km/h), the plane took an even steeper nose dive, and the control surfaces were non- responsive.
Mutke reported that he was only able to regain control by forcing a change in the angle of the Me 262’s horizontal stabilizer which helped him to reduce his speed sufficiently to pull out of the dive.
Common wisdom has it that on October 14, 1947, US Air Force Capt. Chuck Yeager became the first man to fly at Mach 1 (in a Bell X-1 experimental plane), 40,000 feet over the Mojave Desert. The first human to travel faster than the speed of sound.
Mutke came forward with his story in the 1990’s when he claimed that the experiences he had on that day in April ‘45 were actually due to him exceeding the speed of sound. Many of the first pioneers of breaking the sound barrier reported extreme vibrations and buffeting when approaching Mach 1. This phenomena is caused by shock waves that form over the wings and stabilizer surfaces in transonic flight (where some parts of a plane are traveling supersonic while others are subsonic). Though it sounds bizarre, as an aircraft approaches the sound barrier, at Mach 0.95 (95% of the speed of sound) some parts of the plane, due to air acceleration, may be moving faster than Mach 1.
When the airflow reaches Mach 1 over any part of the plane, a shock wave will be created that can immediately change the plane’s flight characteristics. This mixture of subsonic and supersonic flow around the aircraft may well have been Mutke experiencing man’s first venture into supersonics speeds.
Of course, as Jeff Bailey would say, your mileage may vary…
(‘White Three’ in the Deutsches Museum)
Talking of supersonic speed, on the 9th of April 1969, Captain Brian Trubshaw made his first flight in the British-built prototype of the Concorde. The 22 minute flight left from a test runway at Filton near Bristol, England, and landed at RAF Fairford in Gloucestershire.
USS San Diego (CL-53) at Mare Island Naval Shipyard, Vallejo, California, On 9th April, 1944; USS Cassin and USS Denver in the background.
Shortly after 4am on 9th april 1940, German troops crossed the Dano-German border in Southern Jutland, Denmark. German troops were simultaneously landed by ship in Gedser, Korsør and Copenhagen.
After short firefights in in Southern Jutland and German demonstration flights (above) over Copenhagen with bombers, the Danish government, overwhelmed, decided to end the fighting after just a few hours. Fighting had cost 16 Danish and 3 German lives – blitzkrieg tactics, indeed.
Norway was also invaded by Nazi Germany on April 9th 1940. Hitler had issued the order for the invasion of Norway on March 1st under the code word “Weserübung”. The order also included the invasion and occupation of Denmark – above. This was the start of war in Western Europe – and an end to the ‘Phoney War’.
(Ju87 in Norwegian fiord, April, 1940)
Leichter Panzerspähwagen – Sd. Kfz. 221 – lies knocked out in Bredevad, Denmark, on April 9th, 1940.
And on this day, 9th April, 2019, we lost Dick Cole, Doolittle Raider (second from the right).