On This Day…May 16th.
I can’t think of any better way of trying to capture the story of the Dambusters than just letting Guy Gibson himself describe the critical moments of that that famous raid on May 16th, 1943…
“Terry turned on the spotlights and began giving directions – ‘Down-down-down. Steady-steady.’ We were then exactly sixty feet.”
“Pulford began working the speed; first he put on a little flap to slow us down, then he opened the throttles to get the air-speed indicator exactly against the red mark.
Spam began lining up his sights against the towers. He had turned the fusing switch to the ‘ON’ position. I began flying.”
“The gunners had seen us coming. They could see us coming with our spotlights on for over two miles away. Now they opened up and their tracers began swirling towards us; some were seen bouncing off the smooth surface of the lake.”
“This was a horrible moment: we were being dragged along at four miles a minute, almost against our will, towards the things we were going to destroy. I think at that moment the boys did not want to go. I know I did not want to go.”
“I thought to myself; ‘In another minute we shall all be dead – so what? I thought again, ‘This is terrible – this feeling of fear – if it is fear.’ By now we were a few hundred yards away, and I said quickly to Pulford, under my breath, ‘Better leave the throttles open now and stand by to pull me out of the seat if I get hit.’ As I glanced at him I thought he looked a little glum on hearing this.”
“The Lancaster was really moving and I began looking through the special sight on my windscreen. Spam had his eyes glued to the bomb-sight in front, his hand on his button; a special mechanism on board had already begun to work so that the mine would drop (we hoped) in the right spot.”
“Terry was still checking the height. Joe and Trev began to raise their guns. The flak could see us quite clearly now. It was not exactly inferno. I have been through far worse flak fire than that; but we were very low.”
“There was something sinister and slightly unnerving about the whole operation. My aircraft was so small and the dam was so large; it was thick and solid, and now it was angry. My aircraft was very small. We skimmed along the surface of the lake, and as we went my gunner was firing into the defences, and the defences were firing back with vigour, their shells whistling past us. For some reason, we were not being hit.
Spam said, ‘Left-little more left-steady-steady-steady- coming up.’ Of the next few seconds I remember only a series of kaleidoscopic incidents.”
“The chatter from Joe’s front guns pushing out tracers which bounced off the left-hand flak tower – Pulford crouching beside me – the smell of burnt cordite – the cold sweat underneath my oxygen mask.”
“The tracers flashing past the windows – they all seemed the same colour now – and the inaccuracy of the gun positions near the power-station; they were firing in the wrong direction.”
“The closeness of the dam wall – Spam’s exultant, ‘Mine gone!”
“Hutch’s red ‘Very Lights’ to blind the flak gunners. The speed of the whole thing. Someone saying over the RT, “Good show, leader. Nice work.”
“Then it was all over, and at last we were out of range, and there came over us all, I think, an immense feeling of relief and confidence.”
A total of 133 Allied aircrew left for the raid aboard 19 Lancaster bombers, led by Wing Commander Guy Gibson, 53 men were killed and three were captured.
@uscusn Chuck Villanueva’s excellent tribute on iModeler
Aboard the USS San Jacinto (CVL-30), Lieutenant Commander Albert B. Cahn gives the signal to a (VT-51) TBM-1C Avenger to take off for an exercise, 16th of May 1944.
Prime Minister Winston Churchill inspects the British 9th Armoured Division from a prime spot aboard a Covenanter tank of 4th/7th Royal Dragoon Guards, Suffolk, England. 16th May 1942.
Not all nose art is created equal. A beautiful piece of artwork on the P38j ‘Bambi’ (338th Fighter Squadron) which is seen here parked up in Ridgewell Aerodrome, England.
The B-17 immediately behind Bambi’s front landing gear is ‘Chug-a-Lug IV’ of the 381st Bomber Group.
A few months after this photo was taken, Chug-a-Lug was posted Missing in Action after being hit by flak in a mission over Hamburg.
Crew; Julius Levitoff (bombardier), Joe Ward (Flight engineer/top turret gunner), Alf Kreutz (Radio Operator), Gil Menendez (Ball turret gunner), Carl Gates (Waist gunner), Tony Skrinski (Tail gunner), and Bruce Hillard (Waist Gunner) all survived the crash and were all taken Prisoner of War. Co-pilot John Champion and Navigator Joe Byrnes were Killed in Action. Missing Air Crew Report 10154. CHUG-A-LUG (IV).
The Japanese armoured deck aircraft carrier Taiho, pictured between May 16th,1944 at Tawitawi, Borneo. This phot was taken shortly after her commissioning, with Shokaku class carrier in the background.
We’ll see a lot more of the Taino next month on ‘OTD…’
As with the Blenheims, there’s a lot of photos of abandoned B1 tanks in May 1940. Here, a Belgian civilian and a German soldier study an abandoned French Char B1 heavy tank, Ermeton-sur-Biert, Belgium, 16th of May, 1940.
This Scuttled French Char B1 heavy tank has been left in Beaumont, Belgium, 16th May 1940.
German T-34 ‘Trophy Tank’ under wraps in Diemjansk, Russia. May 16th, 1942.
One of the great many Bristol Blenheims (MkIV, RAF 53 Squadron) shot down in the early days of the Wehrmacht’s roll across Western Europe. 16th of May, 1940.
On this day, the 16th of May 1943, three P-47 groups flew sweeps of the Dutch and Belgian coasts, baiting the Luftwaffe into a fight.
Major Josef Priller led the Stabs in his FW190 (above) and the III./JG 26 east, while the II./JG 26 patrolled the French coast. At the same time fighters of JG 1 with their (in)famous leader, Kommodore Major Hans Philip, scrambled from Woensdrecht but were bounced while climbing by P-47s from the 78th FG.
Hitting the Fw 190s below and shooting down the Kommaneur of the II./JG 1, Hauptmann Dietrich Wickop who was KIA (FW 190 -‘Black 1’ – with personal emblem, and unusual tail markings of his Bf109, seen below).
Priller arrived at the fight, chasing down the attacking Thunderbolts. One Jug was seen to crash into the Scheldt Eustary (pilot F/O Charles R Brown taken POW) but (unusually) the RLM refuted his claim, which would have been his 88th victory. In one attack three highly experienced German pilots were shoot down by the ‘bear baiting’ Jugs.
Priller’s Wurger as made by our own Tom Cleaver @tcinla
May 16th 1940, Morane Saolnier 406 attacked on the ground by the Luftwaffe at Maubeuge.
Source: Flight May 16th 1940
2 additional images. Click to enlarge.