Monday, June 24, 2019

Pacific Theater of WW2 (Summary)

Until 1942, Japan had achieved full mastery of the seas and skies in the Pacific Theater of Operation, expanding eastwards and southwards. In 1937 Japan had invaded China. In the summer of 1941 the United States began an oil embargo against Japan to put pressure on this country, which was had invaded China and made incursion into French Indo-China. As a result, and in order to have a free way for its unrelenting expansion and the acquisition of the much needed natural resources for its industry and population, Japan planned a powerful attack on Pearl Harbor to permanently damage and cripple the US Pacific fleet.

Thus, on December 7, 1941, a Japanese carrier fleet launched a surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. During the raid two US battleships were sunk and six damaged. But the raid failed to find any US aircraft carriers and did not damage Pearl Harbor's usefulness as a naval base. The Japanese attack united public opinion in the United States against Japan. The next day, December 8, the United States declared war on Japan. And Germany declared war on the United States on December 11. Hitler expected that Japan would support Germany by attacking the Soviet Union opening a new front for the Soviets. Japan did not oblige. This diplomatic move was a big mistake, for declaring the war on the United States unified the American public's support for the war.

By April, 1942, Japan had invaded the Philippines and the British colonies of Hong Kong, Malaya, Borneo, and Burma, with the intention of seizing of the oil fields of the Dutch East Indies. The Japanese also obtained more victories in the South China Sea, Java Sea and Indian Ocean, bombing the Allied naval base at Darwin, Australia. In a matter of months, all these territories capitulated to the Japanese as thousands of British, American, and Indian forces surrendered to the invading army.

In April, 1942, Major General James Doolittle conducted an air raid on Tokyo, dropping bombs in industrial areas. Although Doolittle Raid was a small operation that did little actual damage, it boosted morale in the US, causing Japan to shift resources to homeland defense.

In May, 1942, Japan began operations to capture Port Moresby to sever the line of communications between the United States and Australia. Nevertheless Allies intercepted and threw back the Japanese naval forces at the Battle of the Coral Sea. Japan's next plan was to take Midway Atoll and lure the American carriers into battle to definitely eliminate it. In early June, Japan put their operations into action but the Americans broke Japanese naval codes in late May, and were fully aware of the plans and force dispositions. Using this knowledge, the US Navy achieved a decisive victory over the Imperial Japanese Navy at the Battle of Midway on June 5, 1942, sinking four Japanese aircraft carrier.

After American and Australian troops took back the occupied parts of Solomon Islands, New Guinea, and the Dutch East Indies, in November 1943, the US marines won the Battle of Tarawa, which was the first heavily opposed amphibious assault in the Pacific theater. The American offensive continued in the southwest Pacific with the capture of the Marshall Islands before the end of February, 1944. The next American objective was the Mariana Islands, especially Saipan and Guam, in which the Japanese were strongly entrenched. But, by July 9, 1944, after a month of heavy fighting, Saipan was taken. With these islands in the Allied hands, Tokyo was within range of the American bombers.

In order to thwart the American invasion of Saipan and Guam, the Japanese committed much of their declining naval strength in the Battle of the Philippine Sea but suffered heavy losses in both ships and aircraft, with more than 600 Japanese aircraft wiped out of the sky and two carriers being sunk.

Then the American forces landed on the Philippine island of Luzon in January 1945, and Mindanao in March. Meanwhile, British, American and Chinese forces obtained a victory over the Imperial Japanese Army in Burma from October to March, then the British pushed on to Rangoon by May 3, 1945. American forces also moved toward Japan, taking Iwo Jima by March, and Okinawa by June. American B-29 bombed Tokyo and other Japanese cities as American submarines cut off Japanese imports.

Finally, on August 15, 1945, the Japanese Emperor, Hirohito, announced by Tokyo public radio the surrender of Japan, which was formally signed on September 2, 1945.

Footage of the Battle of Midway in the Pacific, which turned the tide of the war


Air Superiority in the Pacific Theater (Summary)

When the United States of America entered World War II in December 1941, the Imperial Japanese Navy had full control of the skies over the Pacific Ocean and the far eastern Asian coasts. Japan was able to exert air superiority thanks to its fleet of aircraft carriers (at the beginning of the war, the Asian country had more carriers than the United States), and its carrier-based aircraft, which included the A6M Zero fighter. The Zero (Zeke) was the fastest and the most maneuverable aircraft in the Pacific Theater of Operation until 1943, when the USN F6F Hellcat and the F4U Corsair were introduced. However, with the US Navy victory over the Imperial Japanese Navy at the Battle of Midway in June 1942, the tide of the war began to turn, and with it, the control of the skies switched hands, because the Japanese lost four big carriers at this naval confrontation.

Thanks to its industrial capacity, the United States was able to produce more carriers and new and fastest naval aircraft, such as the two US fighters mentioned above. The American air superiority in the Pacific was evident and definitely secured at the Battle of the Philippine Sea, when the US Navy's F6F and F4U destroyed more than 500 Japanese aircraft. At this naval clash, Japan also lost three more carriers.

Until June 1942, Japan had eight aircraft carriers, which allowed it to exert full control of the Pacific waters; Soryu, Kaga, Akagi, Zuikaku, Zokaku, Shokaku, Chuyo, and Un'yo, from which four were used to attack Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. Meanwhile, the US Navy Pacific fleet had only three carriers; the US Enterprise, Saratoga, and Lexington.

Thursday, June 20, 2019

Maginot Line (summary)

The Maginot Line was a French defensive system which consisted of concrete fortifications fitted with artillery pieces of all calibers and machine guns and observation posts. It stretched all along the border between France and Germany. It was built by the French government between 1930 and 1939, right before World War I. The main rationale for the construction of this defensive line was to stop a German invasion, giving France time to mobilize its army in the event of war against Germany.

The Maginot Line was named after the French war minister Andre Maginot. . The French politicians and Generals were convinced that this heavily defended line would effectively stop the German armies and, when the French Army were ready, then France would launch a counterattack.

The French commanders thought that the Maginot Line and the Ardennes were impregnable; however, WW2 would prove otherwise. In 1940, when Adolf Hitler ordered the Western Offensive (Case Yellow), the German forces invaded France through the heavily wooded and mountainous area of the Ardennes, an area, north of the Maginot Line. Seven panzer divisions led by Erwin Rommel and Heinz Guderian plowed through it and poured over the French border, thus avoiding this fortified defensive system.

Characteristics

The Maginot Line was made up of three interdependent fortified belts with anti-tank obstacles and machine gun pillboxes which stood in front of bombproof concrete artillery fortifications. There were more than 500 separate fortifications, which were built about nine miles apart. Each concrete fortification housed 1000 soldiers with artillery. Between each fortification there were smaller forts which housed between 200 to 500 men depending on their size.

Maginot Line Historical Footage


Monday, June 17, 2019

Aircraft Carriers in the Falklands War

The Royal Navy used two aircraft carriers during the Falklands War; the HMS Hermes R12 and the HMS Invincible R05. The former was a Centaur-Class carrier, which had been commissioned in 1959; while the latter was a light carrier and the lead ship of the Invincible class as it had been launched in 1977.

These British carriers were fitted with 3-D radars, steam catapults, and a 45º sky ramp on the fore end of their flight decks. The HMS Hermes and the HMS Invincible were equipped with 18 and 12 Sea Harrier aircraft, respectively, as well as with 10 Sea King helicopters. During the Falklands War, they successfully conducted interception missions, shooting down Argentinean US-made A4 Skyhawk planes. Their Harriers also carried out ground attack raids against enemy troops, bunkers, and artillery positions.

However, they could not avoid the sinking of the HMS Sheffield D80, hit and sunk by French-made Exocet missiles launched from Argentinean Air Force's Super Etandard aircraft. While on their way to the South Atlantic, they also carried onboard Royal Marine Commando units.

Meanwhile, the Argentinean Navy's ARA 25 de Mayo aircraft carrier remained moored at the base dock in the continent for fear of being sunk by the British submarines. This carrier belonged to the Colossus-class of British-made carriers, which had been launched during WWII. It could carry up to 21 attack aircraft.

The launch of HMS Invincible (video)

Sunday, June 16, 2019

Batalla de Hopton Heath (Resumen)

La batalla de Hopton Heath fue una enfrentamiento militar de la Guerra Civil Inglesa (1642-1651). La misma fue librada entre las fuerzas del Parlamento, comandadas por Sir John Gell, y las tropas realistas, bajo el mando de Spencer Compton, 2do Conde de Northampton, en Staffordshire, Inglaterra.

Resumen

Luego de tomar exitosamente el pueblo de Lichfield, en Staffordshire, el comandante del ejército del Parlamento, Sir John Gell, reforzó sus fuerzas y reanudó la ofensiva, dirigiéndose con 1.500 hombres para atacar el pueblo Stafford. Sin embargo al llegar a Hopton Heath, fueron atacados por las fuerzas realistas, compuestas de unos 1.300 hombres. Aunque la caballería del Parlamento fue desbandada, los mosqueteros de Gell lograron repeler una segunda carga. En este último ataque, el Conde de Northampton cayó de su caballo y muerto en batalla.

Resultado

No hubo claros ganadores.

Saturday, June 15, 2019

Wild Weasel Aircraft

In the US military, a Wild Weasel is a fighter aircraft that has been upgraded and adapted to attack and destroy enemy air defense systems, which include their surface-to-air missile launching sites and their radars. To fulfill this type of mission, the fighter is armed with anti-radiation missiles and fitted with a passive radar to guide them to the targets to be hit. The first anti-radation missile used to equip this type of aircraft was the AGM-45 Shrike, which entered service in 1965. To sum up, the mission of the Wild Weasel is to search out and knock out SAM sites, requiring a reliable aircraft that can survive, with a big bombload capacity.

The first Wild Weasel aircraft was the US Navy's A-6 Skyhawk. However, the most reknown aircraft to carry out the mission of wiping out enemy anti-aircraft defenses were the F-105G and the F-4G, which were special versions of the F-105 Thunderchief and the F-4 Phantom II respectively. The former was first used in combat in the Vietnam War, in the late 1960, to secure an air path for the bombers to fly in and drop their bombs. The F-4G would successfully take part in Operation Desert Storm, the 1991 Gulf War, destroying the Iraqi SAM launching sites and blinding their air defense systems. The single-seat F-16C version was also adapted to perform the Wild Weasel role.

McDonnel Douglas F-4G Wild Weasel video

Friday, June 14, 2019

US Entry into WW1

United States of America's long standing policy of isolationism left America reluctant to get involved with what was popularly perceived among the American people as a European war. In 1915, however, 128 American citizens died when a German U-boat sank the British liner Lusitania. As a result, President Woodrow Wilson energetically demanded an ends to attacks on passenger ships. But in January 1917 Germany resumed its policy of unrestricted submarine warfare.

Early in February 1917, the British secret Royal Navy cryptanalytic group, Room 40, broke the German diplomatic code. They intercepted a proposal from Berlin to Mexico to join the war as Germany's ally against the United States, should the US of America join. The proposal suggested, if the U.S. were to enter the war, Mexico should declare war on the United States and enlist Japan as an ally.

The American press published it on March 1, 1917, and stirred up public indignation. This German secret message, known as the Zimmermann Telegram, plus the unrestricted submarine warfare led to a final break of relations with the Central Powers. After further U-boat attacks on American merchant ships, President Woodrow Wilson finally requested that Congress declare war on Germany. The American Congress declared war on April 6, 1917. In early July, 1917, the US government sent an American Expeditionary Force, under the command general John J Pershing, to France. Initially, this fighting force was composed of 22,000 soldiers.