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Thread: P-40 MTO operations

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    P-40 MTO operations

    Anyone know any interesting stories about P-40 groups in the MTO during WWII? There is a book about P-40 aces in that theater that I might buy, and I also have a really good book on the P-40 with a few stories that I'll post if you like. Was hoping to talk about it. The MTO seems to be the forgotten theater of WWII, while in all actuality it was very important and some very fierce battles (both in the air and on the ground) were fought there. This was the theater in which Merline-powered Warhawks (P-40F & P-40L) were very prevalent.
    Fox-4!

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    RE: P-40 MTO operations

    Anyone?
    Fox-4!

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    RE: P-40 MTO operations

    Not quite what you are after perhaps, but after 'Piece of Cake' Derek Robinson wrote a book entitled 'A Good Clean Fight'. This features the remnants of Hornet Squadron flying P40s in the desert.

    Not nearly as good as PoC, but then without the other Moggy, how could it be. But worth reading nevertheless.

    Moggy.
    "What you must remember" Flip said "is that nine-tenths of Cattermole's charm lies beneath the surface." Many agreed.

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    RE: P-40 MTO operations

    I agree with Moggy, another good book but it does lack the edge of Piece of Cake. Much of it is about the long range desert group. Perhaps the reason for less relevance being placed on the air war is that it is an area which has been the subject of only limited research.

    An interesting addition to PII's collection would be one of Neville Duke's, the title of which I can't remember but it focusses on the Desert Air Force with 112 Squadron and operations in Italy.

    Regards,

    kev35
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    RE: P-40 MTO operations

    Thanks guys, I'll look into that stuff. I take it no one wants to discuss this then?
    Fox-4!

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    RE: P-40 MTO operations

    PII

    Feel free to post away. It's an area I know little of and am always willing to learn.

    kev35
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    RE: P-40 MTO operations

    >Thanks guys, I'll look into that stuff. I take it no one
    >wants to discuss this then?

    PhantomII, please don't assume nobody wants to hear about this subject, even if no-one else has anything much to contribute. It's likely that, as with other little-known theatres (my pet one being the RIAF in Burma!), most people simply don't know much about your subject; but I think most of us would be willing to listen.

    What about those stories out of your book which you promised, in your first post on this thread?

    I have a couple of stories about Indians who flew Kittyhawks in North Africa. Nothing spectacular; just stories about what a few of the millions of people behind the scenes went through during WW2 ... any interest in those?

    Regards,

    Snoopy

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    RE: P-40 MTO operations

    "PhantomII, ..... I think most of us would be willing to listen."

    "I have a couple of stories about Indians who flew Kittyhawks in North Africa.... any interest in those?"



    Yes to both of these from me.

    Moggy
    "What you must remember" Flip said "is that nine-tenths of Cattermole's charm lies beneath the surface." Many agreed.

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    RE: P-40 MTO operations

    [updated:LAST EDITED ON 28-03-02 AT 10:48 AM (GMT)]In last months Scale Modeller there was a whole pile of stuff about the P-40. Lots of piccies & scale drawings etc. There's also an association for the P-40. I've left the mag. at work, so I'll post the address, later.
    Here's a question for you all; Which air force was the first to use the Sharks Teeth on the nose of the P-40?

    Neilly

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    RE: P-40 MTO operations

    Could it be China and Clare Chennaults Flying Tigers?

    Regards

    kev
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    RE: P-40 MTO operations

    Actually, the first operator to employ the Shark's Mouth was not the Flying Tigers as is widely believed. It was the Royal Air Force and I believe 112 Squadron. I can't remember the exact squadron number. Anyway, 112 Squadron operated P-40's in the North African (MTO) theater. In the very early days after the formation of the Flying Tigers, the aircraft hadn't been painted with Shark Mouths. One of the Flying Tiger pilots saw a shark mouth painted on an RAF P-40 in the African desert (presumably 112 Squadron), on the cover of some magazine. He brought up the idea of Shark Mouths for their aircraft, probably because it just seemed like a neat idea. One reason, is widey believe, is that they did it because the Japanese are afraid of sharks.

    As for the stories I have, I believe they center around the 325 FG (Fighter Group) was flew missions in North Africa and on up into southern Europe. I'm at school now and the book isn't with me, but later on, I'll have the stories up. I remember that in two different combat air patrols, the 325th's P-40's (P-40F's and later P-40L's) were ambushed with two to one odds, and they ended up destroying a large portion of enemy fighters while only losing one or two. Keep in mind that avg numbers for these two particular missions was about 40 Germans against 20-25 P-40's. Generall speaking about half of the German force was shot down while only one or two P-40's in each instance were downed. That is pretty impressive. Also keep in mind that this was against the Bf-109, and aircraft that I consider the P-40 to be capable of tackling.

    That brings up my next point. The P-40 was one of the greatest fighters of the war, yet many times it never gets the credit it deserves. I suppose the same would apply to the Hurricane and to a lesser extent, the Wildcat. I've seen everything to indicate that a pilot in a well flown P-40 was a formidable opponent. The only true bad point of the aircraft was its somewhat sluggish high-altitude performance. This was somewhat remedied in later variants, though the P-40 was never ideal up high. One aircraft that I think the P-40 could dominate was the Zero, no matter which version. Take a P-40N and A6M5 for example. The Warhawk is much more durable, it is much faster, dives much quicker, and is better armed.
    Fox-4!

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    Kittyhawks in North Africa

    [updated:LAST EDITED ON 28-03-02 AT 07:45 PM (GMT)]>
    >"I have a couple of stories about Indians who flew
    >Kittyhawks in North Africa.... any interest in those?"
    >
    >
    >Yes to both of these from me.
    >

    OK, here's a few -- hope you like them:

    The quotation below comes from published interviews with Squadron-Leader Mahinder Singh Pujji, DFC, one of (I think) the first batch of Indian pilots to serve in the European theatre during WW2. He arrived in the UK in late 1940; spent most of 1941 flying Hurricanes with 43 Squadron, RAF, on fighter sweeps over Occupied France; and then spent 1942 flying Kittyhawks in North Africa. He went back to India for the rest of the war, spending 1943 and part of 1944 on the North-West Frontier and eventually commanding No 4 Squadron, RIAF, in Burma.

    He's still alive, bless him; and occasionally pops up in pictures on the UK MoD website.

    North Africa was a much more primitive theatre than Europe, and Pujji found the food a particular turn-off; particularly as he wouldn't, for religious reasons, eat bully beef. But there was plenty of flying, and that kept him happy; though a lot of it was the down-and-dirty business of close air support. Around the time of the fall of Tobruk he was shot down. In his own words:

    "I was in a Kittyhawk and … my instrument panel suddenly shattered. … Later I found that a bullet had gone through my overalls - the same one that had shattered the panel. I preserved that as a souvenir for many years.

    "Then … suddenly the aeroplane started disintegrating. I immediately throttled back and landed … in the middle of the desert, right in the sand. Every aeroplane had water and these sort of things, so I sat on top of the aircraft, waiting. I knew to the north was the Mediterranean Sea - I couldn't walk that far. South, east and west there was nothing. There was no choice for me …

    "I was there for about nine-ten hours, when I saw a dust column. As it happened, it was our soldiers … retreating. I was picked up."

    As I say, nothing spectacular … just a one among multitudes of stories, covering those long periods of utter boredom, interspersed with short moments of stark terror, which make up the millions of individual experiences and memories of WW2.

    For a rather more spectacular story, some of you might remember the one posted here by Jagan, some months ago, about how a batch of Indian pilots (on the Allied side, I hasten to add!) found themselves sharing a Christmas dinner with Erwin Rommel, no less. Makes a truly great story; so much so that I can't swear it isn't apocryphal …

    For a much more detailed account of Kittyhawk operations in North Africa, Moggy and Phantom II, you might want to check out this site, if you don’t know it already:

    http://www.accessweb.com/users/mconstab/edwards.htm

    It tells the story of James "Stocky" Edwards, a Canadian ace who also flew Kittyhawks in North Africa. He later flew Spitfires in Italy and Europe, and succeeded "Johnnie" Johnson as WingCo Flying of 127 Wing towards the end of the war.

    Warning -- it's long-ish. Ran to 39 pages when I printed it - but I found them all eminently worth reading. Includes an uncaptioned photograph of a bearded pilot in North Africa. Can anyone tell, is that "Imshi" Mason? (I've read somewhere that he was "the only bearded pilot in the RAF" - presumably, whoever bestowed that title on him overlooked the handful of Sikhs who flew for the RAF!) Or could it be a Sikh pilot, such as Pujji? The helmet does look to me as though there might be a turban underneath.

    I’m guessing the photo came from one of the other publications listed right at the end of this account as image sources. Can I make a special appeal, if anyone recognises that photograph, to please let me know? Many thanks in advance!

    PII, look forward to the rest of your P-40 stories. Regards,

    Snoopy



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    RE: Kittyhawks in North Africa

    Well done Phantom, you're spot on. In the latest edition of Flying Scale Models (got the right mag., this time!), there's a correction to some facts which books & publications get wrong. I'll copy out some of it, as it's quite interesting (not much time now, work or Mrs. Neilly get in the way of playtime!!).

    Cheers,
    Neilly

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    RE: Warhawks in North Africa

    Well, I'm having trouble finding those stories about the 325th. That book I have apparently doesn't have those exact stories. It has some others which I'll post later on, but I have to get the first two posted first. They aren't too long, they just have incredible outcomes that will make anyone place respect under the definition of P-40.
    Fox-4!

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    RE: Warhawks in North Africa

    I don't know the whole story but there was a superb painting (Nick Trudgian?)of P-40's attacking a lighthouse/flak tower somewhere on the North African coast. It really brought the whole scene to life.

    Regards,

    kev35
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    RE: Warhawks in North Africa

    Well, I found the stories. They aren't from the exact place I had originally seen them, but they are the same stories, so here they are, plus one extra one....the last one being famously called the Palm Sunday Massacre.

    North Africa was the first place the Hawks and Eagles met, but it was not their last confrontation. On the Russian front Soviet P-40s faced the Luftwaffe's 109s and Focke Wulf 190s with considerable success. In Italy the 325 Fighter Group, known as the "Checker-Tailed Clan" because of the yellow and black checkerboards painted on their tails, scored two impressive victories over German 109s.

    Story 1-

    On 1 July 1943, 22 P-40s made a fighter sweep over southern Italy. Forty Bf-109s surprised the checker-tails, engaging them at moderate altitude where the P-40 performed best. After an intense dogfight the Germans lost half their force while only one P-40 failed to come back.

    Story 2-

    A similar event took place on the 30th of the same month in which 20 P-40s were bounced by thirty-five 109s. The Germans limped home after losing 21 of their own while the checker-tails came through with only one loss. The Germans lost 135 aircraft (ninety-six of which were 109s) to the pilots of the checkered-tail P-40s while shooting down only seventeen of the 325th.

    Story 3-

    Back in North Africa, the most successful engagement by Tomahawks was what has come to be known as the Palm Sunday Massacre. Just before sundown on Palm Sunday, 18 April 1943, P-40s on anti-transport patrol spotted over 60 Ju-52s escorted by 21 fighters off of Cape Bon, making their way to Sicily. Elements of the 57th and 324th as well as the British 92 Squadron intercepted. 11 Spitfires covered 46 P-40Fs as they pounced on the Axis formations, ripping them to shreds. The carnage ended with 59 Ju-52s and 16 fighters crashing into the sea or Tunisian soil for the loss of only 6 P-40s.

    These stories are all from this article comparing the P-40 to the Zero. It is a very good read, and I hope that anyone who's got an interest in WWII aviation or the P-40 or just WWII in general will read it.

    http://www.chuckhawks.com/p-40_vs_zero.htm
    Fox-4!

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    RE: Warhawks in North Africa

    No one is interested? I finally get the stories up and you guys abandon me.

    Fox-4!

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    RE: Warhawks in North Africa

    Don't panic Phantom I read your post & I'm sure others have, too.

    Neilly

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    RE: Warhawks in North Africa

    I know, I was just kidding. I'll be waiting for some responses though.
    Fox-4!

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    RE: Warhawks in North Africa

    you mean I got the April Fool!
    :'( Doh!!!

    Neilly

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    RE: Warhawks in North Africa

    PII

    Interesting stories. One question about the first two stories and the astonishing successes claimed by the P-40 group. On those two occasions the P-40 group (325th) claimed 41 109's out of a total of 76 engaged for the loss of only 2 P-40's. Were these claims verified at the time? If they were correct can you explain why P-40's did not achieve such success in other engagements? I would imagine that there was a certain amount of overclaiming. In the heat of a dogfight it was not uncommon for several pilots to claim the same victim as a kill, and for aircraft believed to have been destroyed to have managed to return to their bases with varying degrees of battle damage.

    I'm not trying to denigrate anything these pilots have done, it just seems there must be some reason for the successes claimed on that day when the P-40 was in the process of being replaced by aircraft such as the Hurricane, P-47 and P-51.

    The Palm Sunday massacre was a combat where P-40 was engaged mainly against unarmed transports with an escort which was largely engaged, I believe, against the Spitfire V's of 92 Squadron.

    Regards,

    kev35
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    RE: Warhawks in North Africa

    You bring up some interesting points. The claims however in both of the first two engagements were all verified. They are all official and accounted for. If you like, I can give you the e-mail of the author of this article, and I'm sure he will tell you the same thing. The reason for the success of the P-40 in those engagements was because it was used to its strengths. The pilots of the 325th were one of the most successful outfits of the war, and they proved that the P-40 wasn't necessarily and outmoded airplane if it was flown according to its strengths. Contrary to popular belief, the P-40 wasn't completely inferior to the Bf-109's it met in the MTO and (including North Africa and southern Europe), and it wasn't outclassed by the Zero's it met in the Pacific. Take the RNZAF for example. With their P-40's which they operated up until late 1944, they shot down 99 Japanese aircraft, most of them Zeros, and lost only 20 of their own. That is almost a 5:1 kill ratio. Then you have the 23rd Fighter Group (formed from the remnants of the AVG when it disbanded), which operated P-40's until fairly late in the war when they swtiched to the P-51. This fighter group was the most successful USAAF fighter group of the entire war, with close to 600 kills to its credit, and a number of losses not even nearly that high. I think their kill ratio was roughly 6:1. Supposedly, some of Russia's aces liked the P-40 for its durability, as did most pilots, and some of their pilots did very well with the Warhawk as well. Regarding replacing the P-40, the aircraft was in production until December 1944. It fought until V-J Day. It was replaced yes, but the P-40 served throughout the entire war. The USAAF still had some in service that were redesignated ZF-40N when they USAF was officially formed in 1947. Regarding the Palm Sunday Massacre, there were only 11 Spitfires in that fight meaning the P-40's had to do some dogfighting of their own. The reason the P-40 is sometimes thought of as an inferior fighter is because pilots in the early stages of the war (with the exception of the AVG) didn't fly the aircraft to its strengths, which was medium and low altitude combat, often using dive slash tactics. One thing I noticed you put was that the P-40 was replaced by the Hurricane. Actually the exact opposite was true. Many British squadrons traded in their Hurricanes for the faster P-40, as they deemed the Curtiss machine a much better match for the German and Italian fighters they faced. Also, when you question those engagements, look at the overall record of the 325th. They operated three types of aircraft. They operated the P-40 until late 1943- early 1944, and then the P-47 for a short time and then finally the P-51. They were extremely successful with all three aircraft, which means two things. Firstly, it means these men were extremely skilled and very well trained and they knew what they were doing. Secondly, the three aircraft they used were good performers when used to their strengths. The 325th scored around 130 victories with the P-40, while losing only 17 P-40's. That is a very impressive kill ratio. All the figures I've provided have been proven, and none of it is made up in any form or fashion. I feel you are under the impression that so many people have fallen under that the P-40 was an inferior fighter, and doesn't deserve to be on the list of great fighters of the war. It is sad when people feel this way, but hopefully I (as well as many others) can change your perspective on one of the most successful yet misunderstood fighters of WWII. Now, do you want that e-mail?


    Fox-4!

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    RE: Warhawks in North Africa

    PII

    First of all, my apologies over the remark about the Hurricane, I had misread the article not realising that the Hurricane replaced the Buffalo.

    Again, I repeat I believe these claims to be staggering, however I do accept your word and that of the articles author about their verification. Claims, for instance, during the Battle of Britain were often wildly exaggerated. This being no reflection on the pilots, but in a three dimensional pitched battle where a sky literally filled with a twisting melee of aircraft could suddenly clear, such was the speed at which these engagements were fought, it is easy to understand why such disparity between claims and losses actually arose. The fact that these P-40 claims were verified merely adds to the praise the P-40 (and its pilots) were due.

    I labour under no preconceptions about any aircraft or its exploits. I am here to learn, but I will not blindly accept an argument if I feel the need to question it. I am willing to listen and to learn but do not really appreciate having a topic rammed into my head with a sledgehammer. Your final comment 'Now, do you want that e-mail' is made in a way that implies I am personally criticising or disbelieving you. Nothing could be further from the truth. I have enjoyed and LEARNED from this thread and for that I am grateful. This is my sixth contribution to this thread so you can't say that I haven't shown any interest.

    Time to throw my toys back into the pram.

    One final comment is that I have the utmost respect for those who flew and fought these engagements we enjoy talking about. It is their sense of duty, their courage and their sacrifice which has enabled us to have the freedom of speech necessary to engage in discussions like this.

    Regards,

    kev35

    P.S Do you know anything more about the P-40's engaged at Pearl Harbor?



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    RE: Warhawks in North Africa

    Well said. I was perhaps a bit harsh. I just want to get my point through about the P-40 not getting the credit it is due (and that its pilots are due). I only asked if you wanted the e-mail to prove that I'm serious about doing whatever possible to convince you or others about the validity of these claims as well as many others I'm sure P-40 groups had but aren't always recognized as important. Regarding the P-40 at Pearl Harbor, I can tell you some about that. As I'm sure you know, most of the aircraft on the ground were destroyed, but two rather lucky pilots happened to have their planes parked at a nearby axiliary airfield that the Japanese didn't pursue as a target. Kenneth Taylor and George "Wheaties" Welch witnessed the first few minutes of the attack. They promptly phoned the airfield their two P-40B's were parked, and they told the ground crews to arm and fuel their aircraft as quickly as possible. They hopped into a Jeep and drove over to the airfield as quickly as possible. An Aichi D3A "Val" dive-bomber actually strafed them on the way, but they were unharmed. They made it to the airfield where they found their two Tomahawks waiting. They took off and immediately were under attack by more Japanese warplanes. They ended up shooting down seven Japanese planes, 3 for Taylor and 4 for Welch I believe though I might have it backwards. When they ran out of ammo (the whole time they had no ammo for the two .50's in the nose, there was only ammo for the two .30's in each wing at that airfield), they landed and rearmed, but by the time they got back up in the air, the last Japanese wave had already cleared out. I've also heard that a few P-36 Hawks got up into the air, and managed to down a few planes, but I can't confirm that.
    Fox-4!

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    RE: Warhawks in North Africa

    >No one is interested? I finally get the stories up and you
    >guys abandon me.

    Hey, PhantomII, give us a break, it was a long weekend! (And you should hear what Mrs Snoopy threatens to do with my laptop if I take it with me on a family weekend trip!!)

    First off, thanks for the stories and the link. As Neilly says, a sentiment I fully endorse, most of us come here to learn more about a subject we all enjoy; and this thread has certainly helped us, both to learn and to enjoy. I think many of us have stories tucked away, about a little-known aircraft, theatre or personality; and it's great when material like that comes out. It's for these occasional gems that some of us come to this Forum.

    And asking questions about little-known successes isn't by any means to doubt them -- the answers will only give more of us ammunition to back up the stories!

    Anyway, thanks again for starting this thread -- I've certainly learned something, and enjoyed the process. Hope you enjoyed the link I posted, too! Regards,

    Snoopy




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    RE: Warhawks in North Africa

    [updated:LAST EDITED ON 02-04-02 AT 12:06 PM (GMT)]Nice going guys...although I haven't contributed to this thread, I have enjoyed reading the various posts and have learnt some interesting snippets about the P-40 and the men who flew them...

    ~Wincing at the thought of what Mrs Snoopy might do with Snoopy's laptop~


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    RE: Warhawks in North Africa

    PII,

    Just when you thought it was all over...

    First of all, thanks for the extra info on Pearl Harbor. Just to show the flip side of the coin, I've found some info on the MTO in The JG26 War Diary, volume one, by Donald Caldwell.

    In early 1941, 7 Staffel of JG26 was seconded to the Mditerranean with 12 aircraft and began operations against Malta from Sicily. They enjoyed considerable success mainly against Hurricanes. They also spent a short time in Yugoslavia before moving on to North Africa. They were there from mid June until September. It was here they came up against Tomahawks, engaging in combat and I quote:

    "29th July. Ten Ju 87s attacked a Tobruk convoy, and were in turn hit by eight Tomahawks of No. 2 Sqd. SAAF. The South Africans shot down four Ju 87's before 7th Staffel Bf 109s could reach them. Two Tomahawks were then shot down; one pilot was killed, and the other survived as a POW. Three more Tomahawks returned to base with severe damage. Staffel pilots reported five victories."

    Two further claims were made against Tomahawks but on both occasions the aircraft lost were in fact Hurricanes.

    The aircraft used by 7 Staffel, twelve Bf 109E's were suffering badly in the conditions and the pilots and ground crews returned to Salonika in Northern Greece on the 24th of September. I quote again:

    "On this date a Ju 52 carrying Staffel personnel was attacked over the Mediterranean by three Bristol Beaufighters. Two men were injured by cannon fire. The transport returned safely to Africa, but both men died there of their wounds. The 7th Staffels first casualties in the Mediterranean theater were thus suffered at the very end of their detached service. Ironically, the Staffels only fatalities were these two groundcrewmen. The pilots had come through the six months operations without loss.
    The 7th Staffels record while in the Mediterranean theater was unique in the air war. Munchberg's dozen fighters altered the course of an air campaign, and forced their enemies to to modify their strategy for an entire theater of operations. The unit shot down at least fifty-two enemy aircraft without losing a single pilot."

    It should be noted that most of the victories were against Hurricanes. I think you will agree that this is one hell of a record. Against such opposition it shows that the air war in the MTO was vicious and drawn out with both sides having little opportunity to reinforce due to combat commitments in other theatres. Pilots of both sides must have displayed incredible tenacity in this long drawn out battle of offensive and counter offensive fought in appalling conditions where the desert proved to be their enemy as well.

    Regards,

    kev35



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    RE: Warhawks in North Africa

    Great stuff kev. What you've posted and what I've posted just highlights the fact that the MTO (specifically North Africa) is often one of the forgotten theaters or WWII. It seems like WWII took place only in Northern Europe and and the Western Pacific near Japan. I hope all of you here realize just how important an fierce the battles of the MTO were. If you look at it, the MTO had some very fascinating warplanes taking part. You have the Luftwaffe's array of He-111, and Ju-88 medium bombers, Ju-87 light bombers, Bf-109, Bf-110, and Fw-190 fighters as well as Italian G.50, MC.200, MC.202 fighters. British Hurricane, Spitfire, Beaufighter, and Gladiator fighters, as well as American P-40 fighters. All these fascinating aircraft types along with all the brave units, most of which seemed very very good at what they did. Yet this theater is still forgotten. It is sad how history remembers, or forgets in this case, certain aspects of great events such as WWII.
    Fox-4!

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    MTO bombers

    The RAF also used bombers both from Malta and in North Africa. I believe the Wellington was the mainstay of the force with units also operating the Baltimore, the Maryland, the Fairey Battle and the Bristol Blenheim. I think the Wellesley may have been used as well. Beauforts also operated from Malta on anti shipping strikes, as did Beaufighters. At one point I think Fleet Air Arm Albacores were also used in airfield bombing raids along the North African coast.

    Can anyone tell me anything more about the siege at an airfield in Iraq (Habbaniya?) I have read a novel based on the actual event but would be interested in finding out more.

    Regards

    kev
    The Forums only '"blithering anorak" as endorsed by ZRX61

  30. #30
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    RE: MTO bombers

    I think the bomber that did the most work flying out of Malta, was the Blenhiem, especially in the early years of the War. The casualty rate was horrendous! They attacked everything from shipping convoys to troop & motorised transport in North Africa. Their loss rate was amongst the worst in any of battle areas of the War. 105 & 107 Sqds. suffered really badly.

    Cheers,
    Neilly

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