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Book One World War Three 1946

Book One World War Three 1946
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Wednesday, January 8, 2014

The Last Lightning

I probably flew the last P-38 Lightning over Britain. We were desperate for anything that could fly and me mates Ben and Malcolm located two halves and a third of a P-38L and put it together. They did a bang-on job I will say. Originally most of the plane was a drop-nose recon job but they found enough parts to make it a real L model. The RAF took it over after they got it running and didn't quite know what to do with it. Malcolm mentioned me and how I was a qualified P-38 driver. I had spent a few months flying the big twin on a kind of exchange program and loved the bird. So they gave me Ben, Malcolm and my main love Edna, my girl, my Lightning. God I love that plane. She got me out of many a scrape and yes I did say love. I still got her. They sold here to me after the ruckus. Can't afford to fly her much and my arm ain't working so well but we'll reach for the sky again soon.

We had kind of a pirate or clandestine operation going on in the backwaters of Edwinstowe right near Sherwood Forest of Robin Hood fame. There was a canopy of trees over quite a large area and we squeezed a Mossie, a Hawker Fury in there along with all the trimmings. We would gas up, taxi between the great oaks and fly way out of the way and come in from different points of the compass so they could never pinpoint where we had come from. When it came time to head for the barn we would make sure we had plenty of petrol and just outran anyone on our tail and when they gave up we would go to our little hideout in the woods. We even painted pirate flags and skull and crossbones on the planes. Probably not a great idea but when you always flew with a Mossie, Fury and a Lightning they will pretty much know who you are. Besides the Reds were painting their planes with all sorts of markings and colors. It was like the old Kraut flying circus for World War One.

I was very familiar with the Lightning because I was sent to gunnery school in the US at the same time that Dick Bong was there. Bong was America's leading ace even then. A mug named McGuire was hot on his tail but never did catch him. I had dabbled with the Forked Tailed Devil when the RAF was evaluating them and got quite a few hours in the earlier models. Because of the turbo charger flap the RAF decided not to buy the big bugger. I fell in love at first sight myself and never missed a chance to fly one. As you may know all the guns are in the nose and there is no convergence to worry about. Everything shoots where you are pointed. Dick had just gotten his 28th kill and was home on rotation taking well deserved bows and meeting starlets, selling war bonds, getting engaged and learning how to shoot properly.

Amazing as it seems he was a terrible shot according to his own standards. He could just fly so well that he would out maneuver the best planes in the world and in his words "put his guns in the cockpit" of the enemy plane. He didn't need to be a good shot.  He could do things in that Lightning using those twin engines that would make your hair stand on end. He was the best flyer of any kind I ever saw and that was how he got his first 28 kills at that point. He took a liking to me and showed me some very amazing things that have saved my bacon many a time. When he left that gunnery school he was not only the best flyer in the world but the best shot as well.  He never again had to put his guns in the cockpit of the enemy and was a master at deflection shots while spinning that Lightning like a top to get a shot off. Just truly one of the greatest aces of the war.

The model L that me mates put together was much better than the H model I flew earlier. The addition of dive flaps eliminated most of the compressibility problems and we could now dive with the best of them. In fact the P-38 was the only plane flown by Americans to actually mix it up with the Soviets before this latest war and it was by accident over Siberia. It seems the Yanks strafed a command car column and killed a Soviet general. The Reds didn't much like that and a fight ensued between two squadrons of Yak 3s and P-38s. It's still hush, hush as to who won that one. Up until May 2nd, 1946 it was the only fight between Russian and American pilots. My girl Edna seemed to understand that and took great pride in sawing old Ivan in half.

We concentrated mainly on the twin engine bombers, those Tu 2 Bats. The Mossie could handle them and going after Yak and Mig fighters took too much time and setup. We would just get vectored by Fighter Command into a gaggle of Bats and let the Mossie break em up and then we would pick off the weak ones and then hightail it before the fighters came. All of our planes were faster than what the Reds were flying at the time. Hit and run to fight another day and back to Sherwood Forest. We did all right for that last month but we knew we weren't making a dent in the big picture. The Mossie would get maybe one every four sorties, I would get one every three and the Fury would average one in five flights. We must have made 60 flights so my score was around 20, The Mossie 15  and the Fury 12. Not too shabby but not a war winning effort.

The Mossie got caught near the end. They had some souped up La 7 with a lot of red paint on it, who just was in the right position and the right angle to take our friends down. We got some bad petrol that day as well so it might have been that. We were so used to just running away it never occurred to us that the Mossie might get tagged like that. Man she was fast. We were thick as thieves and we raised a toast to Bob and Randy that night with 15 kills, I'm sure they were the leading aces in the Mosquito. It might have been part of a trap as well. So we cooled our heals and then the Yanks decided to really join the war.  

Radar Hunting

Colonel - General Konstantin Virshinin, Commander of the 4th Air Army, seems totally relaxes as he downs a small glass of vodka and lights up a cigarette and sits on the edge of the large desk of his superior. It is late and he has stayed behind after a staff meeting, much to the annoyance of Chief Marshal of Aviation, Alexander Novikov.

"Time to blind RAF Fighter Command Comrade Novikov."

Marshal Novikov is not pleased with his subordinate's familiarity and it shows in his body language, which Virshinin seems to ignore.

"I agree comrade Vershinin, but we must not relent on the pressure of attacking the airfields and keeping them non-functional."
"We can do both comrade."
"I am transferring a hundred fighter squadrons to the South at the end of the month so we must finish and be done with the English soon. You will follow them there and take command. Your old stomping grounds I believe."

Virshinin takes on the persona of a teacher and proceeds to pontificate.

"I suggest that reducing the British radar capabilities will severely weaken their resolve comrade Marshal. We can track and triangulate their radar positions quite well now and the Germans from the GEMA factory, those two Yankee spies comrade Beria keeps hidden, and the captured Amerikosi and British radar sets we sent back from Germany and France have been put to good use. They may be able to see our planes positions with their superior radar, but we can now see where their radar is and attack it. I have arranged for special radar hunting units to be assembled and they are ready for your orders comrade. I suggest that we need to blind the RAF now and be done with it."

Novikov looks straight at Virshinin and slowly replies.

"Bold words Konstantin. Do you have the balls to carry it through?"

Virshinin seems not to notice the warning in Novikov's tone and continues to relax and talk in the familiar as equal to equal.

"The time is right comrade. With the NKVD's information, and knowledge we have gained from captured radar sets, it is time to pluck out the eyes of the British once and for all. That would bring them to their knees I am certain. They are a stubborn people, as the Nazi war criminals discovered to their dismay. Losing their eyes just might prove to be the deciding factor."

Novikov drops his menacing tone for the moment, and seems interested in listening to what Virshinin has to say.

"How many squadrons are needed for your project?"

Once again Virshinin  starts to pontificate and walk around Novikov's office like he belongs there.

"There are close to 100 Chain Home stations operating now. Each squadron should be able to bring down the stations at a rate of two a day. We will attack the towers at their base unlike the Germans. The bases of the towers will be obliterated at our leisure thanks to the excellent plan you devised comrade which has devastated their air operations. You have swept the skies clean by taking away their nests comrade. My pilots will enjoy the bombing practice unmolested by either birds of prey or pesky fly swatters shooting at them from the ground.

The Chain Home Low stations are somewhat mobile. We will have to hunt them down and that will take time. They have a very limited range and only look at low altitudes. If they turn them on then we will catch them. If they leave them off then they are of no use. Many of the stations are on the coast and even our old Pe2s can reach them with ease. It will give the old planes one more chance at glory."

Vershinin starts to relax even more.

"I once flew the Pe2 in combat comrade."

Novikov turns away obviously showing distain for what is to follow and starts to light a cigar.

"Yes, I have heard the story many times Colonel-General Vershinin."
Somewhat taken aback Vershinin replies.
"Then I will not bore you again comrade Marshal."

Vershinin quickly recovers his composure.

" If you give me 20 squadrons of ground attack aircraft I will create large gaps in their vision in two weeks and pluck out their eyes in three."

Novikov once again pauses and speaks very slowly and with much emphasis to drive home the point.

"You will have 30 squadrons and two weeks to completely destroy the British radar network."

Vershinin finally realizes that he may have gone too far, and starts to equivocate.

"But comrade marshal, even with 10 more only 2 weeks it is impossible. We would have to train the new squadrons, get more and heavier bombs shipped to the front, our plans would have to be changed, why the staff time alone would..."

Novikov's voice drips with irony as he waves his hand in obvious dismissal and walks across the room talking as he moves and opens the door in anticipation of Virshinin's exit.

"Comrade Stalin will be informed of your promise, and the new deadline. He will expect the results you have proposed. That is all comrade Virshinin."

Marshal Novikov notices that the usual smirk of familiarity does not appear when they lock eyes. Colonel-General Konstantin Virshinin finally understands what he has done. He puts his glass down and without a word turns and leaves the room.

The headquarters of the Fourth Air Army will be very busy for the next two weeks and then possibly not.

Battle Over London

I could see that the Red planes were hunting for us. Looking real hard, flying slow trying to catch a glimpse of something that would give away our position, a mirror catching the right angle of possibly a canopy, things like that. A few were flying so low and slow just inviting us to shoot at them. We knew better. We had heard of other units that maybe even shot down one or two but the vengeance delivered upon them was awful to behold. I curse the inventor of napalm. Wicked stuff and we never should have started using it on the Japs or any other human. No better way to get yourself killed and fried alive than to shoot at a flying commie plane in those days. They had us so outnumbered and seemed to hate any kind of ground fire. They swarmed like bees at this point if you shot at them.

We were planning at least one more go at them just cause we were stubborn. Kind of like those two German fighters that buzzed the D-day landings. Fighter Command was keeping most of us grounded and under cover and spread out, what few of us that remained that is. My squadron was down to 5 Spits. Hell we had a hundred pilots but no planes. When I think of all those planes we dumped in the ocean. I was on the HS Formidable off the coast of Australia when the word came down after VJ Day to just dump all those beautiful Corsair IVs off the flight deck. I pushed my own bird off. If we kept them we would have to pay the Yanks under Lend Lease so it was decided to just dump them. It broke my heart and we could certainly have used them now.

Oh god I wish I had my old bird back. Not that the Spit is so bad but you just got used to all that power of the Corsair. I think if we had all those Corsairs back we could have won this round, but we didn't so we had to make do. We drew straws to see who would get to fly if word came down to gather. Even with having the best air command system in the world it's hard to overcome the odds we were fighting.

That same day we got word that Ivan was attacking the radar stations. We had to scramble for that. That was probably part of their plan. I remember taking the plane out from under the camo and waiting for operations to give the go ahead to take off. We had to do it quick because you never knew if one of those Red bastard medium bombers would show up. Our area seemed to be filled with ones that had sharks mouths painted on the nose. I finally got the word to head for London. Bang-on I thought, it seems they were going to try and gather for a large attack and hoped to catch and isolate some of the attackers.

It took a long time to form up as we were now spread out all over the place in ones and twos so we could hide better. Who would have ever thought that we would have to hide from anyone after defeating the Germans, but hide we did. With only bits and pieces of all these scattered squadrons meeting for the first time it took us a while to form up properly. By that time the word had spread and the Reds came from all over to mix it up. It was utter chaos with planes flying all over with no thought of control or even proper wingman behavior. My wingman thought I was his wingman and both of us took the initiative and lost each other from the get go. It was like something from out of the that movie Wings from the thirties but at four times the speed. Planes cart wheeling out of control and heading for the ground in flames. You had to dodge pieces of flaming wrecks falling all around you.

You hear stories of the first Battle of Britain and Kursk but I can't imagine they were as concentrated or as intense as this one was. It seemed that both sides decided to pull out all the stops and go for it. Units from Groups 10 and 12, even 13 wanted to strap on tanks and make the trip. The Reds were in perfect position for this fight and they knew it. In hindsight they may had lured out our scattered forces and had us committing them piecemeal. They were coming in dribs and drabs as well, but they now had us out numbered 10 to one by all accounts strategically. It was to be our last hurrah or our greatest victory. Instead of a death by a thousand cuts the pilots wanted to put it all in. We were tired of playing "sardine" where one of us found a safe haven and others tried to join in. I guess that's what makes a good fighter pilot. The chance to win it all. Cooler heads tried to prevail but with the Reds attacking our Chain Home towers we needed to do something. Fighter Command blinked first which probably saved many lives that day but would have lost the battle if the Yanks hadn't started their operations elsewhere.

I mean we only had 200 serviceable fighters in all of 10-13 group and they were all on their way to the Battle over London when cooler heads prevailed. Faced with 1000 commie fighters and twin engine attack planes vectoring in from all over the British Isles it was probably a good call. I wasn't involved in that end of the operation and was trying to fend for myself. Somehow I got back safely and had two kills for my days work. I was about to go up again when my squadrons hiding place was uncovered. Swain was trailing smoke from his Spit that could be seen for miles trailing behind him and that led them straight to us. You can't blame him. He claims he couldn't even see it from his viewpoint and I believe him. The light was such that he probably couldn't see it, but Ivan could and hit us hard.

All our serviceable planes were gone in 10 minutes. This kind of thing was happening all over. There were just too many of them. They were tenacious as well. Never quitting combat always attacking. This made them easier to shoot down at times but when there are so many of them and they are always boring in on you it gets to be quite bothersome and eventually deadly. We could have beat them that day if we had even a hundred more planes. As it was we returned home with our tails between our legs and many of us got hammered when we landed. It really is hell to be so outnumbered and the truth of it is that we had plenty of pilots, good pilots. Just no bloody planes for them to fly. It was beer and skittles for us from now on.

Those initial raids on our Maintenance Units really did the trick. Not only did they destroy hundreds of surplus planes but they shot up the mechanics pretty well. A real cock up by the top brass. I can't say as I would have thought those old planes as valuable either. Bloody Reds seem to be one step ahead of us on this one. I would have protected the factories, petrol tanks, munitions and radar myself before even giving a second thought to old Spitfires.

But just like the Japs and Krauts their luck has to run out sooner or later. At least that's what keeps us going. Even near the end of the last war Jerry almost caught us in the Ardennes. I mean we had complete and I mean utterly complete air superiority and yet he managed to sneak 10 divisions under our very noses while being bombed day and night.

In this business you can never let your guard down, never.