Don’t get me wrong: today’s aircraft are beautiful in a deadly, radar-absorbing kind of way; but the U.S. Air Force’s inventory during the early Cold War-era was like steamy, chromed-up sex (see the color picture below).
Just a couple of random thoughts while we are on the subject of old warbirds: my great-uncle flew on B-36 Peacemakers (the massive plane in the top center) so that plane has always fascinated me. The B-36’s wingspan was so large that one of its wings was wider than an entire B-24 Liberator. Just its control surfaces (flaps, ailerons, etc.) cover more square footage than the B-24’s entire wing area. You’ve probably heard the slogan “six turning and four burning,” which comes from the Peacemaker’s six piston engines and four jets, but more engines equals more problems so crews had another nickname: “two turning, two burning, two smoking, two choking, and two more unaccounted for.” Continue reading “Jets were a whole lot sexier 60 years ago”
1863: Following his defeat at Gettysburg, General Robert E. Lee sends a letter of resignation to Confederate president Jefferson Davis. Davis refuses.
1918: 100 years ago today, ten Allied divisions and hundreds of tanks attack the Germans at Amiens, France, in the first battle of what will be known as the Hundred Days Offensive – a series of engagements that drive the Germans out of France and leads to the armistice. The Battle of Amiens signifies the end of trench warfare and the first large-scale use of tanks in combat. The Allies catch the German defenders by surprise and on this day alone, the Allies kill, wound, or capture 30,000 German soldiers. By its conclusion, the offensive will produce over two million Allied and German casualties.
1942: One day after hitting the beaches, Marines capture the unfinished Japanese airfield on Guadalcanal – later completed and renamed Henderson Field – and also secure the islands of Tulagi, Gavutu, and Tanambogo. That evening, a Japanese naval force catches the Allied fleet by surprise and hands the U.S. Navy one of its worst-ever defeats. Three American cruisers, one Australian cruiser, and an American destroyer are sunk during the Battle of Savo Island, or as it was nicknamed by veterans as the Battle of the Five Sitting Ducks. Continue reading “Today in U.S. military history: the Battle of Five Sitting Ducks”
Featured image: Convair’s first B-36A in flight. (U.S. Air Force photo)
1862: Confederate forces led by Gen. Robert E. Lee launches a counteroffensive against Maj. Gen. George McClellan’s Army of the Potomac. Although the outnumbered Confederates suffer heavy casualties and subordinates fail to execute Lee’s plans, McClellan will ultimately withdraw from Richmond following the Battle of Mechanicsville – the first major engagement of the Seven Days Battles – and abandon the Peninsular Campaign.
1917: A convoy containing the first American Expeditionary Forces – members of the 5th Marine Regiment – land at the beaches of Saint-Nazaire France. The American troops will train for four months before entering combat. More than two million Americans will serve on the battlefields of Western Europe, and over 50,000 will lay down their lives in the “War to End All Wars.”
1942: The Grumman F6F Hellcat – credited with the most aerial victories of any Allied naval aircraft during World War II – makes its first flight. Designed to compete with the agile Mitsubishi A6M Zero fighter, the Hellcat will come to dominate the skies over the Pacific. 34 Japanese warplanes are knocked out of the sky by top Navy ace and Medal of Honor recipient Capt. David McCampbell – one of an incredible 305 Hellcat aces in the war. Continue reading “This day in U.S. military history: Coast Guard captures French port of Cherbourgh”
When most American troops were returning to civilian life after winning of World War II, the Army Air Force established a new outfit, responsible for delivering America’s new atomic weapon: Strategic Air Command. Before the United States had an arsenal of nuclear-armed submarines and intercontinental ballistic missiles, the only way to target our opponents was to send the pilots and crew of SAC flying over hostile territory. Advancements in jets, missiles, and air defense technology meant SAC’s arsenal of planes had to constantly adapt and be replaced in order to provide the nuclear deterrent needed during the Cold War. Here are just some of the aircraft used by SAC during its 45-year history:
After World War II, Boeing modified its iconic B-29 design, adding more powerful engines, a larger tail fin, and a stronger air frame. Boeing also produced reconnaissance and aerial tanker versions of their last piston-powered warplane. RB-50s conducted reconnaissance flights over the Soviet Union, but the advent of jet-powered MiG fighters means that Soviet flyers can – and on occasion do – shoot down these high-flying “Superforts.”