Thursday, January 19, 2017
The sergeant was still reeling from a concussion. All he knew for sure was that he was in mortal danger, surrounded by people who spoke a different language. Strangely, they were wearing the same uniform as he. Oh and one more thing, they were panicking. For that reason, he decided to make his escape or possibly he was going AWOL. He didn’t care.
He knew he was a sergeant, but could not recall his name, or what he was doing here, or even where he was. But he did not panic when he saw his chance. It was time to react! Fight or flight was a basic reaction and he was down to basics. He grabbed his 45 Colt and M1 Garand rifle when they were not looking and slipped out.
The majority of the noise and explosions were coming from the west, so he went east. Most of the men in uniform seemed to be going southeast. He decided to head for the sunrise. He did hear and understand the word “paratroops.” Then, he remembered those were the soldiers who jumped out of perfectly good airplanes to land behind enemy lines. He couldn’t remember if he was one of them or the enemy. He decided that despite the fact that all those around him didn’t speak his language (whatever that was), he would not shoot them. That course of action seemed to be the correct decision as they basically left him alone.
He had to use a crutch because of a huge bandage on his right leg. He hadn’t had time to examine the wound. He must be on some powerful medication because even though blood was seeping through the wrapping, he felt only a slight discomfort. He had a feeling that his pain level would change dramatically in a few hours.
He was stumbling along, almost dragging his rifle, suffering from a concussion, missing a big chunk of his calf muscle, and loopy from some drug. Suddenly, some guy comes out of nowhere and shouts a word he recognizes. Without thinking, he shouts another word back. Some kind of greeting he assumed. Anyway, it worked. A man he vaguely recognized poked his head around a piece of wall and didn’t shoot at him. The fellow didn’t seem too pleased to have found him, whoever him was, or was it whom he was.
As the man approached him, he recognized every third word. While, not all of it was completely clear as to it’s meaning, it was enough to trust the guy. Another 12 or so sullen individuals appeared from behind various hiding places. They seemed to know him. But again, were not very happy to see him. He felt kind of like a bad penny showing up. He couldn’t worry about that now as a big, ugly plane with red stars flew over them at very low level. He was going to take a shot at it, but the others warned him not to. The bullets would just bounce off and it would only warn the pilot that something unfriendly needed killing in his target area.
The plane flew straight and level over a particular section of the city. Liquid flame started to pour out of the tanks on its wings. That was enough to get the small group running to the east at a very fast pace with him trying to keep up, bad leg and all. He felt something squishy in his boot and stopped for a second to check it out. Every time he took a step a squirt of blood oozed from his bootlace holes. Not good.
The leader of the group doubled back and added another rag to his bandage, tying it very tight. The bleeding seemed to stop for the time being. When he stood up, he was very unsteady. Once again, his companion came to his aide. Luckily the man was on the large size and almost as big as he was. They made a good pair and soon caught up with the others.
Just as the others had disappeared around one of the seemingly endless corners, a man with their back towards them shouted something to someone else out of sight. Mankowitz shrugged off his human crutch and as he was dropping to the ground he unslung his rifle and shot the man just as he was about to shoot one of the other men in his group. Well, it was very nice to know he knew how to use the rifle he was lugging around. The move he just made, even impressed him, and he had no basis for being impressed. Hell, he couldn’t even remember his name.
His companion helped him to his feet, and once again, they hobbled east. The attack by the plane spewing fire made them go beyond exhaustion. It was two hours later, and he was feeling the pain and lots of it. He jerked away from the grip of his rescuer and fell towards a set of steps. He just barely caught himself before his head hit the ground. He lay there and waved on his companions, motioning that he was too tired and too much in pain to continue.
Out of nowhere, one of the squad pulled out a syrette…now, why did he remember that word and not his own name…and jammed it into his leg. Then, the soldier squeezed the tube and administered the medicine. He didn’t think that was how it was supposed to be done, but within seconds he didn’t care. They pulled him up and two others half carried and dragged him for another couple of hours. They stayed just ahead of the massive explosions and the ominous sounds of those flame throwing planes.
He finally learned that Nazik was the name of the leader and that his name was Sargent Mankowitz. He really didn’t think that was his name but he was assured by all in the group that it was. Also, learned that he was American, they were Turkish, and the enemy were Russians. None of it made any sense to him what so ever. He remembered another war where the Russians were his friends, and he had even gotten drunk with a bunch somewhere. No matter, memories were starting to return. Now, he could start to really think about the long-term survival of this little band of men who had saved each other’s lives. And that’s what it’s all about in the end he was sure. It didn’t matter if you were enemies one day and fighting side by side the next it seemed. Today was what mattered and today meant he would survive until tomorrow.
In the North, the story was similar to that on the banks of the Black Sea. What was left of the Soviet Black Sea Fleet bombarded areas 100 km from the Dardanelles along with massive attacks by the Soviet version of the Marines. Many of the troops were veterans of the Moonsund Landing Operation in the Baltic. They were better trained this time, thanks once again to the Americans. The Soviets had even more of the amphibious vehicles called DUKWs or more commonly Ducks. Over 5000 had been left behind in Germany and France and were now being used in the Black Sea.
The Turks opposing the landings had never seen anything like the DUKWs. For the most part, the Turks didn’t even try to shoot at the vehicles with small arms fire believing them to be more heavily armored than they were. In hindsight, a good 50 cal would cut through their hulls like a buzz saw. But, that was hindsight for you.
The end result was that 10,000 Soviet troops were on dry land north and east of Istanbul in a matter of hours. Also, the DUKWs could be used to transport supplies and troops on land like any other truck. These odd looking, possibly heavily armored, vehicles were quickly dispersing Soviet troops throughout the area around Sile. Soon, they were on their way to Izmit in an attempt to cut off three divisions of Turkey’s finest soldiers.
The old Russian battle cruiser Parizhskaya Kommuna took part in the bombardment along with the remainder of the Black Sea Fleet including the cruisers Molotov, Voroshilov, Krasnyi Krym and Krasnyi Kavkaz. These ships proved devastating to the shore defenses once the VVS and IL-10 Beasts had napalmed the shore batteries that could have posed a danger to the old ships. Unfettered from their fears of retaliation, they drove in close to shore and used their guns to silence all opposition worth note around the beaches of Sile. Shutting down the resistance gave the DUKWs an almost leisurely cruise and got the troops well on their way towards their respective objectives.
Things were going so well that something had to go wrong and it finally did. Finally, the Turks discovered that the DUKWs were just floating trucks and very vulnerable to small arms fire. They were not the fearsome armored beasts they had expected. That would come later. For now however, the DUKWs and the troops in them started to die.
The Turkish military was very good at small unit tactics and their soldiers some of the bravest in the world. When their generals did not place them in hopeless situations, they could more than hold their own. The invasion of the DUKWs ended at Tiki or about 19 km from Sile on the way to Izmit. A combination of rugged terrain and even more rugged Turkish soldiers started to devastate the flock. Even the shells of the old battle cruiser could not reach out and assist them now. The VVS did not have the range to make use of its ground attack arsenal. The IL-10 had a formidable collection of weapons, but it also had a relatively short range without drop tanks. It was the Soviet soldier with his small unit tactics and heroism against the Turkish soldier on even terms. The fighting became up close and personal as both sides preferred.
Scenes straight out of Stalingrad and Berlin started to unfold with meaningless buildings suddenly taking on life or death significance. One such building was the local mosque in Teke. Without artillery or anything larger than a grenade, this holy building changed hands over and over again for two days. 239 men died within its walls by ones and twos, while killing other men in ones and twos. After the first few attacks and counter attacks, every grenade thrown, was muffled by the dead bodies lying around. Following the first day, most who entered would shoot anybody who didn’t have a bullet hole in their forehead, just to make sure it wasn’t someone playing dead. It was a house of horrors with recognizable body parts lying all around from previous attacks. Large artillery and bombs tend to vaporize most human remains whereas grenades just chop them up.
How could you keep entering a building filled with such gore with the intent of creating more? Yet, they did, squad after squad went in with the goal of winning the view from the minaret or preventing the enemy from gaining that view as well. Then, squad after squad followed them in and carnage continued.
These types of assaults were repeated all along the lines until the VVS finally was able to move it bases closer to the front and started to end the Turks’ hold on these small strong points.
Wednesday, January 18, 2017
November 25th, 1946
Nazik reasoned that they wouldn’t waste another rocket of shell on a location they already destroyed. So as soon as the shell hit, he jumped into the newly created crater. It was still warm and smoking, but otherwise a good hole to hide in. He didn’t think there was one piece of Turkey within his eyesight that was not destroyed. The barrage of rockets, shells and bullets seemed to reach a crescendo and then, to his amazement, increased. How could they have so many guns and rockets pointed at his poor country?
He had his back to the Turkish Straights and was one of the first to notice the parachutes. Thousands of them coming down behind their lines. He had only the vaguest idea of what a parachute actually looked like. He had even a lesser understanding that some of the chutes were attached to armored cars like a balloon vendor’s cart. He did comprehend the men hanging from the majority of white cloth mushroom caps. More importantly, he was clear that they were between him and safety. The very safety he was going to run to when the shelling stopped. He would have left earlier, but the American had been watching him and his squad. When the American was wounded, he and many others started to look to the east. They urgently needed to escape the shelling and what they assumed was about to follow.
For now they were about to be possibly cut off from even that avenue of retreat. It appeared that there was an avenue of escape left open to the southeast where fewer parachutes had fallen. Others saw what he saw and started to jump from crater to crater in the only direction that still seemed open to them. A trapped animal is at its most dangerous and a trapped Turkmen is even more dangerous individually than your normal soldier. No one excels at individual survival than these masters of stealth and hand to hand combat.
It is quite possible that the way to freedom was purposefully left open. No records can be found of such a plan but it was curious that a quarter mile wide gap was conspicuously left open by the Soviet paratroops. This avenue of retreat led to a desert wasteland devoid of any strategic value. Armored cars where particularly useful in keeping the Turkish forces moving in a southeasterly direction.
As Nazik made his way to the open avenue of escape, he noticed the Ruskies soldiers were not even shooting at them and even the ground was less tortured by the rockets and bombs. Contrary to what you might think, these details unnerved Nazik even more than the massive barrage of hours earlier.
Nazik and his men went to work. In less than an hour, he destroyed an armored car and shot or stabbed 7 other paratroopers. That made 13 kills including the crew of the armored car and one officer who was hanging around the vehicle. He had made his personal quota and it was time to save his life and lives of his men for another fight. Every bone in his body told him not to take the obvious retreat route left open by the initial paratroops. His animal instincts told him it was not safe. He had lost none of his squad and they had done a good job despite the others around them running at first chance.
Three of his squad snuck off and ran with the waves of others to the corridor open to the southeast. Nazik led his men directly east from his original area of operations, the Kucuksu Palace on the shoreline overlooking the straights. It was a small palace that had been renovated in 1944 and was used by royal hunting parties as a stopping off point towards parts unknown. Nazik and his men had enjoyed their stay on the grounds. It was now a pile of ruins and rubble destroyed by the initial shelling and rocket attacks.
Knowing full well what was about to happen, the Turkish high command made the controversial decision to make the Western part of Istanbul or European side an open city. They were hoping to avoid Istanbul’s destruction, once again by an invading army, and had heavily fortified the eastern side or Asian side across the Turkish straights. Nazik was thankful that the western side was devoid of fortifications as it made his escape much easier. His departure would have been without drama, except for the 10,000 or so Soviet paratroopers between him and short term safety.
In his mind, he had made his twelve-kill quota and if everyone did as well they would have won. He did his part and his squad had done theirs as well. Now it was time to survive to fight another day. The centuries old Kucuksu palace had been obliterated in very short order because that is what enemies do to each other’s potential strong holds. From what he could discern, only a handful of artillery pieces had destroyed hundreds of years of history in a matter of minutes.
There were some others who were actually making better time than his men and he. They shouted out that the Ruskies were coming across the straights in small boats and rafts by the thousands. With most of the opposition decimated by the guns, rockets and heavy attack aircraft, it was going to be a very easy crossing. There were no bridges to speak of and the government had destroyed all the ferries that had plied the straights.
He supposed the Reds had built their own ferries and would be bringing them from the Black Sea once they gained both sides. They had decimated the opposition and had no problem with the great rivers of Europe. Consequently navigating the straights would be trivial. The paratroopers would clear the waterfront of all opposition and the small boats they were using would bring enough troops over to defend until the larger tanks negotiated the transports.
Nazik caught a glimpse of something moving to his right, and signaled for his remaining men to spread out and go silent. He mentally thanked the American sergeant for teaching his troop the use of hand signals. Although some didn’t make much sense when translated into Turkish, others worked quite well. A couple signals were offensive. He chose to ignore them. His men had devised others to replace them while still remembering the meaning of the discarded ones. The figure he caught a glimpse of was wearing a similar uniform and carrying a weapon at ready. He moved differently than his countrymen and that is what caught his eye. He couldn’t put a finger on it yet this kind of instinctual decision-making is what had kept him alive in all the years of combat he had been through.
He spoke the code word for the day and waited for the proper response. He got it, but with an obvious accent. Then, he knew who it was. It was the American assigned to his company. The one who trained them and made them fight until he was wounded. Here he was back from the dead. He shouted out the American’s name so he would know they were friendly. Sure enough, Mankowitz popped his head up for a second. They all heard firing close by and ducked. Mankowitz hobbled his way towards them. He was still bleeding from a leg wound. Someone had bound it up pretty well and he appeared to be in good shape considering. When Nazik last saw him, Mankowitz was unconscious. The same rocket had hit them both but the Yank’s wound was much worse.
Sunday, January 15, 2017
He was churning up inside. On the outside he was as cool as you can be, but inside he was producing all sorts of chemicals and his body was not in balance with what he was thinking. His mind was overtly controlling how he was perceived but his inner chemistry was jacked up. The cause was his concern for the bombing crews he had sent out this morning. They were going to try a new and very risky operation. LeMay had warned him that if the planned Wiley Coyote maneuver ended up in tragedy, he would personally see to Twining’s courts martial. But, that really wasn’t his main concern.
He was genuinely worried about his crews, about the boys he saw everyday walking to the briefings and standing in the chow line. He didn’t care what anyone said. They were his boys and his responsibility. If he had done anything to increase the chances of them not returning to their mothers and fathers then he would never forgive himself.
In other words, he was a good commander and an outstanding leader. His men could sense that and they would have followed him to Moscow if he ordered it. On the other hand, they knew he would not put their lives in needless danger so they didn’t question his leadership. He had, himself,
experienced ditching an airplane. He spent six days in a life raft during the last war when the plane he was on had engine trouble in the Pacific between Guadalcanal and Espiritu Santo. He knew what it was like to feel abandoned and forsaken.
The fighters appeared first as usual. They were the lowest on fuel and the fastest. A CAP was formed when they were about an hour out to prevent or as least harass the inevitable Soviet attempts at incursion over their base’s airspace. Without the strong CAP, the crazy Ivans would follow them all the way home and shoot them down as they landed. They had actually experienced that a few times. The VVS has sent flights of longer ranged Yak 9s at very low altitude towards their forward bases. They had done a good job of shooting up the place. So, now a strong CAP was SOP at low altitude to deter the Ivans in the future. For the most part, it worked.
He could tell from the radio chatter that morale was good. Improving morale was one of the main reasons he had let the development of the Wiley Coyote progress. The losses were not sustainable, yet the Pentagon kept ordering them in. The Soviets were losing pilots as well. But, they were flying fighters and a few medium bombers so every plane shot down by us only involved the loss of one man. Each of our bombers shot down was seven times worse. From all reports, the VVS was keeping up with trained pilots and fighter planes where we were not. We were losing more bombers than could be replaced in a timely manner, especially when it was the B-29. Even at full production, we only were able to produce 65 a month. Before SAC was given a breather, they were on pace to lose 100 a month.
The most maddening part was that the Soviet’s oil production was increasing despite the SAC’s best efforts. The slow but inevitable loss curve in bomber numbers had developed much like the one the Luftwaffe experienced with their fighters. Unless something changed, they were going to lose this fight.
He heard the first of the venerable B-24 Liberator bombers’ engines and decided to go back inside and wait for the reports. He was actually optimistic at least as far as morale was concerned. Temporarily, at least, the Wiley Coyote had done the trick.
A few hours later, the reports were added up and he was looking at them with renewed hope. Twenty squadrons had pulled a Wiley Coyote and only three were hit by a SAM. Seventeen had successfully evaded the missile shot at their mission leader’s plane. This was very good news indeed. Losses were actually sustainable for a change and hovered around 6%. Very close, but sustainable when America’s manufacturing finally hit its stride.
The corporate leaders had finally been shamed into making the switch once again from consumer products to military production. It seems the US was out of money. Being the good capitalists they were, it took some arm twisting to get them to support the war effort. Ford was poised once again to pump out B-24s and it looked like they would be the workhorse once again. The B-17 got the headlines while the Liberators did the work.
It was kind of interesting that this war had been mainly fought using the last war’s equipment. He supposed that if the war dragged on more and more sophisticated machines would be fighting it out. For now, it was still the propeller vs. the propeller for the most part.
You just couldn’t crank out jets as fast as you could piston engines. You could shoot them down as fast however. He mused that future wars will be fought and won or lost very quickly due to the fact that it was eventually going to be quality over quantity that would win the day. Today it was still quantity and they were fighting an opponent that was second to none in producing good-enough equipment in massive quantities. Quantity had been the issue for the Germans. Their equipment was superior to ours but they lacked the industrial capacity to match us. Their superior jets and tanks were not superior enough to overcome our greater numbers. But now we were in a war with an opponent who could potentially keep pace with our production.
The Soviet Union and the US had something in common. Unlike the Germans and the British, our means of production were almost impossible to attack at the moment. Hell, we didn’t even know where their facilities were located. For the most part their manufacturing sites were so far inland and hidden that it was very similar to us having the Atlantic Ocean between us and their attacking forces. Their ocean happened to be the vastness of their country. We executed a very well planned attack on their oil fields and refineries before they could react, but they closed that window surprisingly fast.
His mood took a turn for the better as he read the After Action reports. They were very positive and the Wiley Coyote maneuver was a qualified success. It had increased morale as well as shaved a point or two off of the losses. The reduced losses meant that on a 500 bomber raid another five or ten crews made it to base and 35 to 70 Americans made it home. 70 less letters that had to be written, and 70 more men would not be ripped from their families and shipped overseas, and that was worth it.