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Thread: Post-War Aircraft Disposal (Dump/Landfill)

  1. #1
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    Post-War Aircraft Disposal (Dump/Landfill)

    The stories of these burried boneyards fascinates to no end.

    I'm aware of the problems recovering items, due to local heritage/memorial laws (not to mention the chance of setting of munitions), so thats really not the point of this thread.

    I have read about these dump-sites on various warbird pages, but all seem to be based on stories. Actually I don't remember reading any first-person account. Thats not ment to suggest that they don't exist, but I have just not come across them (besides "my uncle said", or "a friend of mine).

    Surely such events would be documented in some military archive, along with the exact list of disposed materials. Have anyone browsed these, and are any of them available online?

    The Pacific area boneyards (landfills) are often mentioned. Saipan, Tinian, Morotai and basically any island used by US forces have rumours of these landfills.Some were "plundered" in the 50's and 60's by scrapmerchants, and some are said to be still there.

    Whoever oversees these dump-sites (US military i would think), would have kept a list of actual dumps and maybe also of those sites, where scrapmerchants were allowed to recover the materials (surely they would have paid for the permission, or at least registred as having a permission). Do anyone know of a "trustworthy" current list, or was the whole thins sort of an "ad hoc" operation?

    Finally I have been wondering if any European landfill is known. I know that materials used in aircraft, was very scarce after the war and that waste numbers of aircraft were recycled by civilian businessmen, but there would have been areas, where the recycling didn't make economic sense. Either due to the remoteness of the place, or the numbers of aircraft involved.

    Are there any such European sites out there?

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    There is supposed to be a disused railway tunnel in Hampshire close by a former RAF base containing crated planes and spares.It has been sealed at the ends by develpoments so the only way in would be from above.This is something I read on a forum,maybe here, a few years back

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    I have spend the last day browsing for information regarding post-war aircraft dumps.

    Initially I would mostly find posting like this, people discussing myth and legends surrounding war asset disposal. Until finally it hit me; burring a number of aircraft is not officially a historic question, its en environmental question.

    The US has at least one entity involved with such matters: The Defense Environmental Restoration Program.

    Once I began looking in that direction, things became more clear.

    One thing i found, was the 2007 remedial action work plan for Kagman airfield on Saipan. Kagman is one of the pacific bases rumored to contain buried aircraft.

    Although the work plan didn't specifically mention aircraft remains, it did mention metallic debris that was the be reclaimed by a local metal salvager. It did not specify any amount, so this could simply be oil drums, jerry cans and other metallic waste.

    The above work plan is not evidence for any buried aircraft, but its evidence that the US government is tracking these landfills and local authorities are concerned by the environmental impact. In other words: they want them gone.

    One buried aircraft might be considered a historic curiosity, but a landfill with aircraft is an environmental disaster. This might not pose a big problem for larger states like Indonesia and PNG, but for small islands, who make an income from tourists, their environment is essential.

    This all adds up to a situation, where the possibility of recovering any legendary aircraft dump is slowly disappearing. If they are out there, they are in the process of being rectified and most probably very quiet.

    Browsing papers from The Defense Environmental Restoration Program. I came across another little tasty bit. A plan to remove a “partly buried B-29” from an area that is NOT China Lake. Currently I have no more information regarding this aircraft, but I'm looking into it with some vigor. I can say that the location is Utah, so if anyone know more please post.

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    Forgive me if this is at a different level to the one intended, but (well documented) UK scrapyards from our past containing aircraft or parts are, by and large now landfill, or have been cleared and built on.

    It's a steet level approach but it's worth asking as many local or connected people as possible linked with the sites past the fate of the aircraft that were there just prior to the sites demise. It may not yield the gold we all wonder about, but it can sometimes sign off the unknown elements once and for all.

    I salvaged a Vampire NF10 fuselage pod from a quarry scrapyard in Bingley many years ago, now at AeroVenture, and another was saved by Alan Allen , which is now displayed at the Mosquito museum.
    The remaining several Vampires were unceremoniously bulldozed into a hole or a nearby pond, and the whole site filled in. The same yard contained several 'heavy' mainwheels/ tyres, thought to be Stirling, and numerous smaller items littered around, including Firefly engine bulkheads, Spitfire glycol tanks and a Typhoon control column, only some of which could be saved in time(the Tiffy column definitely was!).
    Lord knows what else was under the tangled mass of wreckage that was strewn around the site.I would wager a few more gems.
    I was approached recently by a reader of an old W&R who was researching UK scrapyards, and he was obviously pleased to learn that as much as the aircraft and many parts were seemingly lost forever, they were there, in spirit more than physical presence maybe now, but there!

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    Nice to hear you saved aVampire fuselage pod.

    By the way. you are right on the mark regarding the intend of this thread.


    There were times when surplus materials could be easily dumped and covered, without anyone asking questions about it. Luckily things are no longer so.

    Of cause many of those sites are still around, and its a safe bet, that those in the know, would prefer not to talk too much about it. Not due to any state secret, but simply because they would need to clean it up.

    I worked on an airbase with a pre-war history. Although there are no buried aircraft, there are evidently quite a bit of polution. Before people began focusing on the environment, things were simply dumped. That goes for any surplus substance, like fuel, oil and even battery acid. The airbase is now closed, but to avoid the cleaning bill, they deemed the area a recreational "park". Using it as aresidencial area would involve top-soil replacement, which is a very expensive operation.

    Any substantial dumpsite, which is not already cleared for construction, is unlikely to be declared so, due to the level of polution in the soil. People no longer want to live on top of poluted lands.

    As i mentioned in my last post, they are now clearing Kagman airfield, or at least working on a plan to clear it. I think this kind of operation will be something we will see more and more, so from an aviation history point of view, it might be worth following this development, both locally and globally.

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    Quote Originally Posted by SMS88 View Post
    There is supposed to be a disused railway tunnel in Hampshire close by a former RAF base containing crated planes and spares.It has been sealed at the ends by develpoments so the only way in would be from above.This is something I read on a forum,maybe here, a few years back
    I remember reading something along those lines.

    I'm inclined to file it under "legends". Primarily because it would serve no point to seal off aircraft in a railway tunnel. Disposing of aircraft by burial would seem like a solution, when those aircraft are located on a remote pacifis island, but when in Hampshire, it would be easier to contract a local scrap merchant.

    However, stranger things have happened.

    I remember how storage personnel in RDAF recently found parts for machinery not used since 1955. The parts (not aircraft related) had dutyfully been stored and counted every year, without anyone ever realising it was discontinued.

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    Firefly engine bulkheads

    Quote Originally Posted by Relightflynn9 View Post
    Forgive me if this is at a different level to the one intended, but (well documented) UK scrapyards from our past containing aircraft or parts are, by and large now landfill, or have been cleared and built on.

    It's a steet level approach but it's worth asking as many local or connected people as possible linked with the sites past the fate of the aircraft that were there just prior to the sites demise. It may not yield the gold we all wonder about, but it can sometimes sign off the unknown elements once and for all.

    I salvaged a Vampire NF10 fuselage pod from a quarry scrapyard in Bingley many years ago, now at AeroVenture, and another was saved by Alan Allen , which is now displayed at the Mosquito museum.
    The remaining several Vampires were unceremoniously bulldozed into a hole or a nearby pond, and the whole site filled in. The same yard contained several 'heavy' mainwheels/ tyres, thought to be Stirling, and numerous smaller items littered around, including Firefly engine bulkheads, Spitfire glycol tanks and a Typhoon control column, only some of which could be saved in time(the Tiffy column definitely was!).
    Lord knows what else was under the tangled mass of wreckage that was strewn around the site.I would wager a few more gems.
    I was approached recently by a reader of an old W&R who was researching UK scrapyards, and he was obviously pleased to learn that as much as the aircraft and many parts were seemingly lost forever, they were there, in spirit more than physical presence maybe now, but there!
    Do you know if any Firefly engine bulkheads survived?
    WANTED FAIREY FIREFLY parts!
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    I'll ask at AeroVenture, although at the time (mid 80's) they were at their early Firbeck site , and some stuff was scrapped at the time of the move to Doncaster.
    If there's a lead there i'll let you know.

    There were at least a dozen of the bulkheads, but as they were extremely heavy, i could only save one on the trailer i had, as far as i remember they had what i thought at the time to be catapult launch hooks at each bottom corner, very heavy duty hooks of some description anyway, and obviously well forward ?

    The other bulkheads will still be in there at Bingley i'm sure, but who knows under what amount of rubble / soil.

    I may have a photo somewhere in a box in the attic, but it'll be a few days before i get channce to dig through the masses of photo's from back then. If the hooks clue sounds right it may be worth me chasing it with AeroVenture armed with the photo, let me know if it confirms or negates what i've been thinking all these years ?

    Paul
    XS186 CREW

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    Firefly

    Quote Originally Posted by Relightflynn9 View Post
    I'll ask at AeroVenture, although at the time (mid 80's) they were at their early Firbeck site , and some stuff was scrapped at the time of the move to Doncaster.
    If there's a lead there i'll let you know.

    There were at least a dozen of the bulkheads, but as they were extremely heavy, i could only save one on the trailer i had, as far as i remember they had what i thought at the time to be catapult launch hooks at each bottom corner, very heavy duty hooks of some description anyway, and obviously well forward ?

    The other bulkheads will still be in there at Bingley i'm sure, but who knows under what amount of rubble / soil.

    I may have a photo somewhere in a box in the attic, but it'll be a few days before i get channce to dig through the masses of photo's from back then. If the hooks clue sounds right it may be worth me chasing it with AeroVenture armed with the photo, let me know if it confirms or negates what i've been thinking all these years ?

    Paul
    XS186 CREW
    The hooks would be right for a Firefly firewall.
    It would be great if you could find out if they survived.

    Thanks
    Andrew
    WANTED FAIREY FIREFLY parts!
    Griffon74@btinternet.com

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    Quote Originally Posted by Mondariz View Post
    I came across another little tasty bit. A plan to remove a “partly buried B-29” from an area that is NOT China Lake. Currently I have no more information regarding this aircraft, but I'm looking into it with some vigor. I can say that the location is Utah, so if anyone know more please post.
    That would be in the Dugway Proving Grounds, the Wendover Range or the Deseret (not desert) Test Center...three contiguous parcles of land 70 miles WSW of Salt Lake City.
    Another place it could be would be the Hill AFB Range about 15-20 miles north of the Wendover Range.

    My guess is they are administered out of Hill AFB.
    Also, if you're looking for a B-29, the excellent Hill AFB Museum might know something about it or if there is anything worth recovering.
    There are two sides to every story. The truth is usually somewhere between the two.

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    I'm not personally looking for a B-29

    I think you are right about the Dugway proving grounds. I'm not at my normal PC, so I don't have the document here. I seem to remember the location was described as "north of granite peak". I will see what Google earth can find, but "partly buried" might mean you can't see it.


    My main interest is the fact, that its still there. However, storage at a place called something with "proving ground", does not bode well for the condition

    Whatever the condition, surely there are always something that can be used (by CAF,or some static project).

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    Urlay Nook, Stockton on Tees

    Some interesting comments here:

    http://picture.stockton.gov.uk/photos/S868.aspx

    Anyone know anything more about this location?
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    Quote Originally Posted by G-ORDY View Post
    Some interesting comments here:

    http://picture.stockton.gov.uk/photos/S868.aspx

    Anyone know anything more about this location?
    Yes, that is a very interesting collection of comments, and it was actually something like this i was looking for.

    The reason for scrapping surpuls war materials (in particular german aircraft), was that the allied had plenty they wanted to sell. The aircraft was for a large part, scrapped on site and then removed to the recycle plant.I can easily see situations, where this procedure could not be followed, and that a landfill was used instead.

    Did they dispose of new Merlins?

    Maybe not. Those engines were used long after the war (not just in aviation) and would have represented a certain value.

    Did they dispose of low hour Merlins?

    Almost certainly. With the number of surplus new engines, it would have been cheaper to replace the used engine with a new one.

    If someone in the area (Urlay Nook) raised questions about soil contamination, there would have to be an inquiery. These landfills are no longer military secrets (if ever they were), and pose a real environmental danger. Unless its on a defined military area, like a proving ground, or firing range, there is no way an environmental investigation can be denied.

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    Here is a bit more about the recycle plant:

    "On the subject of recycling, I found out after the war that a large, storage depot-type building nearby had been used for that purpose. It was not, however, the usual sort of recycling. It was sited where the Ministry of Defence Spare Parts Depot stood for many years afterwards. It was guarded night and day by soldiers and had a gun battery, so I knew it was — to use wartime jargon - a very ‘hush hush’ establishment. I believe that Lord Nuffield had something to do with it. I used to see wagonloads of scrap going by on the railway en route there.

    Its official title was Metal Reclamation Unit No 2. Irrespective of nationality, all aircraft, which had crashed in the North of England, were taken there. The metals were separated and melted down ready for re-use."

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    I found another bit of information regarding aircraft disposal in the UK.

    "Radioactive material is extensively used by MOD as a luminising agent to provide a
    lightweight light source that operates independently of any external power source.
    Radium, promethium and tritium have been the main radioactive materials used for
    this purpose but other isotopes may have been used. Radioactive material is also
    used in electronic equipment, particularly in valves. After the Second World War, a
    lot of military equipment was taken out of service. This involved the dismantling of
    the equipment, generally for scrap value before burying the remaining wastes.
    These wastes were often burnt prior to burial, to reduce the volume. Burning was
    commonplace at MOD sites as this was the accepted method of disposal of surplus
    items in the UK, and was industry standard practice. Redundant military aircraft have
    been burned on aerodromes, particularly in the south of England.

    Defence Estates, who manage the land for the MOD, are currently undertaking a
    programme of Land Quality Assessments on all current defence sites. This
    programme actively identifies and manages MOD land which is both radioactively
    and chemically contaminated. It is unlikely that there are any unknown sites. "

    This means that there are lists of sites and most likely an estimate of the materials.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Mondariz View Post
    The reason for scrapping surpuls war materials (in particular german aircraft), was that the allied had plenty they wanted to sell.
    Certainly not true after W.W.II, while after the Great War the intent was to prevent a German military resurgence, however much of an overkill there was.

    In both cases the postwar 'market' was over-saturated and the Allied Powers did not act in concord. The factors for the disposal of Lend Lease materiel (for instance) is worth further study.

    Regards,
    James K

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    Some years ago, ex AWE boffins related the story of a significant number of new build Spitfires, that were surplus to requirements, being bulldozed into a large hole in the ground at the end of one of the runways at the then RAF Aldermaston at the end of WW2. Not sure if they were burnt first. I understand Aldermaston did indeed produce Spitfires during WW2 but stand to be corrected?

    I gather AWE are quite meticulous with scientific sampling of the ground on their patch for obvious reasons. Evidently this indicated that something might well be down there but, again, I doubt of we’ll ever know for sure – again for obvious reasons.


    PS: I understand Eaglescliffe ‘processed’ a huge number of ex Luftwaffe aircraft at the end of WW2.

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    Without wishing to pour cold water....I have been on more than a few searches for wrecks buried on airfield dumps, engines chucked down cellars, thrown into ponds etc etc etc than I could shake a stick at. I am afraid that these tales seem to be 99% myth, 0.5% fact and 0.5% disappointment. The last buried aircraft site I was invited to attend a "dig" on produced tons of coke waste from the airfield domestic boilers, broken crockery and tins cans.....despite assurances that all manner of aircraft and engines had been dumped there! The only buried aircraft (Spitfire) that turned up, as far as I know, was at Kenley although this was, in any event, pretty well documented. True, a magnificent find but a one-off in the UK I fear. However, claims that Lancaster fuselages had been located buried nearby went strangely quiet....as did the "buried Lancaster wrapped in Hessian" story from somewhere in the Midlands I think.? That must have been a heck of a lot of hessian, and why wrap it in sacking anyhow??? Tales about old railway tunnels filled with aeroplanes in Hampshire and Luftwaffe aircraft parts from Farnborough dumped in Fleet Pond....nope...I don't buy it. I remain an aircraft buried/chucked in a lake/thrown in a quarry/whatever sceptic. Would love to be proved wrong, though!
    Last edited by Tangmere1940; 20th March 2008 at 14:48.
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    Aircraft are still being dumped and buried - for example during Desert Storm battle damaged aircraft were buried in the desert.



    Makes you wonder what else is out there.

    Best regards

    Jason

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    Quote Originally Posted by JDK View Post
    Certainly not true after W.W.II, while after the Great War the intent was to prevent a German military resurgence, however much of an overkill there was.

    In both cases the postwar 'market' was over-saturated and the Allied Powers did not act in concord. The factors for the disposal of Lend Lease materiel (for instance) is worth further study.

    Regards,
    You seem to be very quick at correcting other peoples posts. Are you in the possession on the big book of facts?

    I have seen documents the effect mentioned in my post. I do not make up parts of history to suit my postings here.

    The allied had no interest in leaving Denmark (those are the documents i have seen, but i assume that goes for other smaller nations) in possession of a fully functional air force containing the ex-luftwaffe inventory.

    There were talks about using luftwaffe material to re-start the danish air force, but the new owners of said materials (the British victors), had no interest in this solution.

    Trade intereste were at stake. Maybe not the direct sale of surplus war materials, but the future dependence on British and American materials.

    Sure there might have been other considerations, but those i mentioned are certainly not INCORRECT.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tangmere1940 View Post
    Without wishing to pour cold water....I have been on more than a few searches for wrecks buried on airfield dumps, engines chucked down cellars, thrown into ponds etc etc etc than I could shake a stick at. I am afraid that these tales seem to be 99% myth, 0.5% fact and 0.5% disappointment. The last buried aircraft site I was invited to attend a "dig" on produced tons of coke waste from the airfield domestic boilers, broken crockery and tins cans.....despite assurances that all manner of aircraft and engines had been dumped there! The only buried aircraft (Spitfire) that turned up, as far as I know, was at Kenley although this was, in any event, pretty well documented. True, a magnificent find but a one-off in the UK I fear. However, claims that Lancaster fuselages had been located buried nearby went strangely quiet....as did the "buried Lancaster wrapped in Hessian" story from somewhere in the Midlands I think.? That must have been a heck of a lot of hessian, and why wrap it in sacking anyhow??? Tales about old railway tunnels filled with aeroplanes in Hampshire and Luftwaffe aircraft parts from Farnborough dumped in Fleet Pond....nope...I don't buy it. I remain an aircraft buried/chucked in a lake/thrown in a quarry/whatever sceptic. Would love to be proved wrong, though!
    I think i pretty much support your view (and thats without ever taking a shovel to the clay aircraft-wise).

    However I do love those stories, and maybe some day, something wonderfull will be found. I'm pretty sure it won't be a military dump-site, as they were mostly burnt before burial. My hopes are that some "semi-gangster" managed to cut a deal with someone in the disposal office and those items are still in a German basement

    Deals were cut in this way. Mostly for fuel, tires and other items generally in great demand with the civilian population.

    Following the above idea, I have no prolem imagining a businessman purchasing a number of Merlins, or other dual-use items. Perhaps even a few aircrafts.These are the "missing" items I hope will be found.

    As late as 1951, a Danish scrap merchant got permission to salvage a ditched HE-111, which for some reason had not been reclaimed by the Germans after the ditching. Not sure what became of it (likely it was scrapped), but other similar situations could result in an aircraft ending "in the back of the shed", or at least substantial parts kept for "business reasons".

    I also remember a British bomber, which was turned into a shed in Holland (not much left, but still it proves that people can have other designs on surplus aircraft).

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    What are "dual-use Merlins" ???
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tangmere1940 View Post
    What are "dual-use Merlins" ???
    A Merlin as an engine need not be used in aviation. Its just an engine.

    That was all i meant.

    I could imagine 1000's of things a powerful engine could be used for in post-war europe.

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    I better elaborate in my last post.

    What I'm talking about, is people trying to make a "great" deal, by illegally buying surplus materials (likewise sold unofficially), which they intend to sell.

    After the war there was more or less nothing on the civilian marked. Someone who is offered a crate of aircraft instruments, would be likely to accept, with the hope of selling them (there are aircraft instruments, that could be used outside aviation, and even those that can't, would seem to represent a value - for a later sale).

    Anything electric would also appear to be of value. Same for engines, generators, hydraulic and fuel pumps. Quite litterally everything, could be seen as a possible deal.

    My hope is that some of those things, proved less attractive on the black marked and ended in a storage room somewhere.

    A parallel today would be those shops/stalls that seem to have a huge amount of old computer gear. The inventory might seem valuable (after all its consumer electronics), but the fact is, that there is no demand beyond the odd matrix printer fanatic

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    things in holes

    Have a look at this website especially the links to photos at the bottom and personal accounts, it shows that there is stuff out there still.

    Paul

    http://www.ozatwar.com/quarry.htm

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    Hi Paul,

    Thanks for an interesting link.

    Surely this is not the only such site.

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    I was browsing wikipedia and reading about the Short Sunderland, when i happened upon this bit:

    "At the end of the Second World War, a number of new Sunderlands built at Belfast were simply taken out to sea and scuttled as there was nothing else to do with them."

    Does anyone know something about this?

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    more buried treasure

    Hello Mondariz

    Here is another link for you, this time in the US.

    Paul

    http://www.indianamilitary.org/Freem...FF_museum.html

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    Sunderlands

    Taken from the thread about a Wellington wreck is this link to a Sunderland but it also mentions the scuttled ones including a movement card entry.
    Paul

    http://www.divetheworld.com/Diving/w...9044/index.htm

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    Quote Originally Posted by Mondariz View Post
    You seem to be very quick at correcting other peoples posts. Are you in the possession on the big book of facts?
    Only 'seem to' to some. Books? Several, actually.

    Quote Originally Posted by Mondariz View Post
    I have seen documents the effect mentioned in my post. I do not make up parts of history to suit my postings here.
    I didn't suggest you did, I'm sorry you seem offended, which wasn't my intent. However it remains that your conclusions are often detached from your data.

    Quote Originally Posted by Mondariz View Post
    The allied had no interest in leaving Denmark (those are the documents i have seen, but i assume that goes for other smaller nations) in possession of a fully functional air force containing the ex-luftwaffe inventory.

    There were talks about using luftwaffe material to re-start the danish air force, but the new owners of said materials (the British victors), had no interest in this solution.

    Trade intereste were at stake. Maybe not the direct sale of surplus war materials, but the future dependence on British and American materials.
    Care to share those primary sources that place this as the main rationale for the destruction of aircraft after 1945? That may have been a factor in Denmark in 1945, but it's a major assumption to say it goes for all nations, or to regard the matter so simplistically as to concentrate on one factor, itself difficult to prove, even if true, to the exclusion of all others.

    Quote Originally Posted by Mondariz View Post
    Sure there might have been other considerations, but those i mentioned are certainly not INCORRECT.
    There certainly were 'other considerations' and your generalisation I objected to earlier is unsupportable as the allies ceased acting in any manner of concord in 1945. I'm currently editing a book on the use of ex-Luftwaffe wrecks in Poland in 1945, and your statement touches on only one minor item of the many factors at play there, then.

    On the topic, the RAAF Museum's Mosquito PR.XVI was obtained to use the engines to move frost out of an orchard; and the Gladiators recovered after the 1940 Norway campaign remained in private hands in sheds for many years afterwards. The scenario is good, numerous examples have been recovered. Simple analysis suggests that the majority have already been found, but that certainly doesn't mean there's no more. But all treasure hunting (which this is) is highly romantic on paper, hard work and frustration in reality, with occasional returns (1:1,000).

    Regards,
    James K

    Looking and thinking...
    Vintage Aero Writer: Blog & Details

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