Profile Photo
david leigh-smith
283 articles

On This Day…May 14th.

May 14, 2019 · in Photo Collections · · 18 ≡

Beautifully shot image of US tanks of the 755th Battalion, awaiting the call to enter Coreno Ausonio, near Lazio, Italy, on the day of the town's capture, May the 14th, 1944.

Rarely photographed Focke Achgelis Fa223 ‘heli-thing' on the 14th May, 1944, airlifting the wreckage of a Do-217.

Below are the USS Nevada (BB-36) and USS Texas BB-35, an ‘OTD...' favourite) in Belfast Lough, Northern Ireland, United Kingdom, 14th May, 1944.

The USS Satterlee (DD-626), also in Belfast Lough, Northern Ireland, shot on the same day, preparing for D-Day. Photo was taken from the USS Quincy (CA-71). Also seen, background, are the USS Baldwin (DD-624) and the USS Nelson (DD-623).

On May 13th, the Wehrmacht rolled on through Belgium, breaking through the Ardennes forest into the immediate area of the French town of Sedan. While the German forces formed a bridgehead at the river Meuse, the Allied forces concentrated all they had in terms of firepower to stop the war machine.

(German troops crossing the Meuse River in a rubber raft, near Aiglemont, France, 14th of May, 1940)

The RAF in particular, suffered prodigious losses. Using the hopelessly outclassed Fairey Battle, the attrition rate for the Battle of Sedan is listed below. Sometimes we become inured to numbers, but take some time to look through this list and the fact hits home that this was not a battle.

No. 12 Squadron (Fairey Battle) – lost four out of five aircraft.

No. 88 Squadron (Battle) – lost one out of ten.

No. 103 Squadron (Battle) – lost three out of eight.

No. 105 Squadron (Battle) – lost six out of eleven.

No. 114 Squadron (Bristol Blenheim) – lost one out of two.

No. 139 Squadron (Blenheim) – lost four out of six.

No. 142 Squadron (Battle) – lost four out of eight.

No. 150 Squadron (Battle) – lost four out of four.

No. 218 Squadron (Battle) – lost ten out of eleven.

No. 226 Squadron (Battle) – lost three out of six.

It was the RAF's worst ever day in terms of proportional losses.

Proving that we really don't learn much from history, 70 years earlier the French were routed at Sedan by German forces in the Franco-Prussian war, the German field Marshall Helmuth Von Moltke saying on the eve of battle, “we have them in the mousetrap”.

The French General, Auguste Alexandre Ducrot's interpretation was rather more blunt; “we are in the chamber pot and about to be s**t on”.

A B-24 Liberator of the 705th Bomb Squadron over Orly Airfield, Paris, May 14th, 1944.

German troops filing past the burning wreckage of a downed Dornier bomber, shot down while bombing a Belgian town, 14 May 1940.

One many downed 110s in these pages in the last few days, this Zerstörer was shot down on the French border May 14th, 1940.

The U.S. Navy made aviation history on May 14th 2013, when the X-47B Unmanned Combat Air System demonstrator (UCAS-D) made the first unmanned carrier-based catapult launch from the deck of the aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77) off the coast of Virginia, US.

in 1945 a kamikaze pilot off Okinawa finally did what the Japanese wrongly claimed they did three times previously, and took the USS Enterprise out of World War II.

Shortly before 0700 hours an A6M5 Zero, using the weather as cover for as long as possible, burst from the low hanging clouds, feigned harmlessly overshooting the ship, only to wheel left, turn upside down and at the last second, dived almost straight into the aft elevator shaft. The Zero is breathtakingly caught in the act of inverting, just before impact.

The explosion sent the 15-plus ton elevator (seen in the photo below) 400 feet into the air, wounding 72 men and killing 12.

Though the Big E never left her station, made way under her own steam, and never lost speed, she was no longer combat ready and on 16 May 1945, she withdrew from the fighting.

The Big E was the last carrier struck by a Kamikaze, and would not return to war.

(F6F-5N Hellcat of VF(N)-90 on board USS Enterprise CV-6 after the kamikaze attack)

After the burial at sea for the Enterprise crewmen killed in the attack, there was also a burial at sea for the Japanese pilot, Tomiyasu, off the ship's stern. His rank of Lieutenant Junior Grade was discovered from the insignia on his flight suit, and there were also name cards in one of his pockets. The name on these cards was translated incorrectly as Tomi Zai, the name used by historians for almost 50 years to refer to the kamikaze pilot who hit Enterprise.

Reader reactions:
15  Awesome

18 responses

  1. David, your posts can make me so sad sometimes. But they are very, very good.

    That shot of the B-24 gives me modeler's itch really bad...

  2. I often feel the same way, David. It’s the nature of war. Nature of humanity, I guess. One and the same, in many ways.

    There’s always a hope in these posts that I manage to push a few buttons, that maybe the photos or stories will inspire a project.

    Thanks for reading, even more for dropping a comment, my dear friend.

  3. Less known about Enterprise is that the diver who found the remains of the Zero and its pilot in the depths of the ship's hull took several personal items of the pilot, which he secreted away and kept for himself. Following his death in 2003, his son found the items, including a last letter from home for the pilot. He had them translated, discovered the home address, and through the efforts of the Japanese embassy, the surviving relatives of the pilot were discovered and his sister and niece came to America, where they were given their relatives' last possessions by the son.

  4. David, look at #16 again. They look like Tommies, not Germans.

    • 100% correct, James. Good spot, I was clearly not concentrating - it’s been a long day but time’s been short. An odd combination.

      Cheers, and thanks for taking so much notice!


      • No problems David. Even though I've been working a lot lately, like yourself, I always look forward to you OTD posts. I really like the first photo in this post, filing that one away for a future Dio possibility. Oh, and one of my favorites that is dear to this heart...the USS Texas BB-35 .

        All the best!

        • David, that same photo is also not from a German twin engine in has a roundel in it’s fuselage (perhaps a Potez as an educated guess). Now, I think you occasionally slip some typos on purpose just to feel your audience attention 🙂 another splendid OTD edition my friend

          • @holzhamer

            Those soldiers sure look like Germans...

        • Ah, I adore the Texas. A proud old warrior.

  5. David every post is a highlight and today you surely packed in some real goodies. Thanks for bringing this to us on a daily basis. It must be a time consuming effort but it sure is greatly appreciated.

  6. Thanks, David. As noted, in terms of writing, the thread is mainly a commute filler (which is why the posts tend to get pushed out at the beginning or at the end of the day) - and the research part is laying around on the sofa in the late evening looking at interesting photos, its all very enjoyable. Glad you enjoy them.

  7. the meuse river crossing is fantastic...that was a great army

  8. David, you like the Big E, I didn't know...seriously that's one ship that should have been preserved as a museum.

  9. Great report, David! Thanks!

Leave a Reply